4.21 / From the Archives: Crosstraining

July 16 2013


July 16, 2013. It’s jocks vs. nerds: athletic and artistic abilities are unrelated if not mutually exclusive, if we are to believe our friends at Bad at Sports, who note, “if you were good at sports you were probably too busy dating to be that interested in art.” Enter Matthew Barney, who counters this limiting perspective with an athletic bravura grounded in metaphors of muscles and the body’s response to distress, which is central to his controversial legacy. Although the athletic domain—regularly diagnosed and dismissed as a symptom of a larger social problem—may seem inimical to what art represents, the artists, curators, and writers who train athletically prove that artistic praxis and physical performance are intimately connected.

Athletic performance relies on moments of what Hans Gumbrecht describes as “focused intensity,” when the mind and body are perfectly aligned; psychologists call it “flow.” As many artists will attest, flow is as essential to effort as to recovery, and fuels the routine, discipline, and near obsessive commitment to an exercise that others might deign impossible. To wit, athletics does not only employ the body; it trains the whole system to endure fatigue and fear. Exertion ruptures existing fibers that, with rest and nourishment, make stronger connections, optimizing our chances of success when it matters.

How might traditional artistic training complemented by soccer improve a curator’s skills? Can a work made of “squats and body heat” reframe medium-specificity and process? This issue explores the relationship between athletic and artistic praxis, noting repetition, failure, and reward, as essential components of the creative process.—Ellen Tani

Ellen Tani is a doctoral student at Stanford University and a competitive triathlete. She finished third in the 2013 San Francisco Half Marathon.


Art Practical has invited its regular writers to guest edit thematic issues of content from our archive this summer as we prepare for the launch of our new website in September. These issues highlight the breadth of subjects we've covered over the past four years and some of the notable interests that catalyze artistic practice in the Bay Area. And here's a look at what is coming up for Art Practical. 


Control Room: Jennifer Locke

Control Room: Jennifer Locke

By Glen Helfand

Locke’s works are the antithesis of messy, sensationalized spectacles. Rather they are rigorous, almost meditative actions, poetic and often studded with the levity of their absurdity. Her projects generally involve two primary tools—the trained body (hers and/or others) and the still or video camera either recording or producing a live feed.


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Telling on Paper: A Personal Evolution

Telling on Paper: A Personal Evolution

By Mia Kirsi Stageberg

It’s about the dialogue between a visual artist and a painting or drawing, as it’s created. He manages to show the friendship that develops as the artist brings a concept to an easel, works a while, and finds that the imagery talks back, not only in what first appears but in the surprises of paint or ink, the mind-of-its-own.

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