Run It By Me

Gregg Whe­lan, a pro­fes­sor of per­for­mance at Fal­mouth Univer­sity, ex­plains why run­ning can be art

Runner's World (UK) - - In This Issue -

The art of run­ning and the run­ning in art

PER­FOR­MANCE ARTISTS are in­creas­ingly mak­ing run­ning their muse. ‘Artists are be­gin­ning to ex­ploit sport’s abil­ity to pro­duce mean­ing­ful nar­ra­tives from pure phys­i­cal ac­tion,’ says Gregg Whe­lan, who holds an Arts and Hu­man­i­ties Re­search Coun­cil Fel­low­ship to ex­plore the cul­tural agency of run­ning and its re­la­tion­ship to en­durance and par­tic­i­pa­tion. He takes us on a whis­tle-stop tour of ‘run­ning as art’.


A man in a suit runs through cen­tral Helsinki, his brief­case un­der his arm, black shoes clat­ter­ing on the city streets. He looks anx­ious, sweat­ing as he ne­go­ti­ates the crowds – per­haps he's late, or lost, or both. We see him once and think lit­tle of it. But then we see him again, and again. He has been tear­ing through Helsinki once a week since May last year and fin­ishes this May. He is

Run­ning Man (above), an art­work by Fin­nish artist Nestori Syr­jälä, win­ner of a na­tional prize by the Fin­nish State Art Com­mis­sion. ‘It’s an im­age of con­tem­po­rary hu­man­ity,’ he says. ‘A hur­ried and lost fig­ure in a world be­set by eco­log­i­cal, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal crises. I think about run­ning as some­thing primeval, some­thing fun­da­men­tal to the hu­man psy­che. In our dreams and night­mares, we are still run­ning.’

Given that Syr­jälä also runs, what makes Run­ning Man art and a ‘run­ning man’ just that? Syr­jälä frames his work as a pub­lic mon­u­ment. ‘Pub­lic mon­u­ments are glimpsed many times rather than stud­ied vis­ually like paint­ings in a gallery,’ he says. ‘Their power and pres­ence are more con­cep­tual; peo­ple know they are there and what ideas and his­to­ries are con­nected to them.’ As mon­u­ments mark events, or peo­ple, of his­tor­i­cal dis­tinc­tion and dif­fi­culty, so too does Run­ning Man. ki­


The Aus­tralian theatre com­pany All the Queen’s Men takes the leg­end of Phei­dip­pi­des as the in­spi­ra­tion for its pro­duc­tion Fun Run. Staged in pub­lic spa­ces, the per­for­mance – part en­durance event, part pan­tomime, part epic theatre – in­volves a lone per­former run­ning a tread­mill marathon as the hero’s tale un­folds around him. Phei­dip­pi­des’ jour­ney may have been a solo ef­fort but this show gets its en­tire au­di­ence up and mov­ing. allthe­queens­

3 26 IN 26

At the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val in 2013, artist Vicki Weitz’s per­for­mance – Twenty Six Marathons in Twenty

Six Days – con­sisted of her run­ning back and forth along the Royal Mile, weav­ing in and out of the crowds for up to five hours a day. ‘I wanted to ex­plore how some­one – any­one – gets up and does some­thing each day, ev­ery day,’ says Weitz, whose work was prompted by a mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent that meant she had to use a wheel­chair for the best part of a year. ‘It was a per­for­mance about mo­ti­va­tion, sup­port, par­tic­i­pa­tion and fear,’ she says. vicki­ 4 WORK NO. 850 In Mar­tin Creed’s

Work No. 850, from 2008, a run­ner sprinted through Tate Bri­tain’s Neo­clas­si­cal Gallery, a quiet space full of static art works, ev­ery 30 sec­onds. The Turner Prize win­ner was in­spired by a mad dash with friends through the Palermo Cat­a­combs, which re­minded him of that joy­ous, child-like delir­ium go­ing at full tilt pro­duces and gave him the de­sire to place that breath­less move­ment into the heart of the gallery. mar­t­in­ 5 MON­KEY SEE…

Co­me­dian Richard Gadd’s in­tense, award­win­ning 2016 show Mon­key See Mon­key Do saw the per­former giv­ing voice to the mono­logue that had played out in his head since he suf­fered a sex­ual as­sault some years ear­lier. Gadd spends the hour-long show huff­ing and puff­ing on a tread­mill, in per­pet­ual flight from the in­ner demons that re­lent­lessly chase as the show reaches its pow­er­ful fin­ish. @Mr­richardgadd

MAN ON THE RUN A hur­ried and lost fig­ure in a world be­set by eco­log­i­cal, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal crises’

Vicki Weitz wanted to ex­plore how peo­ple do the same thing day af­ter day. Run­ning five hours a day for 26 days seemed to do the trick.

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