running as a form of art

Tell me, if you can- who defines art?

Who are the ones who say that art is x, y, z; who educate youth of a certain disposition to critique and analyze art in a certain way?

I’ve been in museums all over the world, and seen people place the label of “art” above all sorts of things. A room filled with electric blue glow-in-the-dark waterfalls on black backgrounds with no other light source; drawings of ghastly creatures with demon tails looking for all the world like what they needed was only a hug. Careful renditions of the bodies of lovers, sculptures with no distinct shape or form, heaps of marble figures on a wooden table in Rome. Black and white photographs depicting the life of a famous political rebel. Drawings that looked as if they belonged to a 6 year old boy, but were framed and on display because they were the born from the thought process of someone whose later work became famous. A toilet in the middle of the Seattle Art Museum with what was a pile of hopefully artificial shit.

Who says there is one way to define art?

I want to discuss the artistry in sport.

Obvious forms of sport as art: gymnastics, figure skating, ballet. Clearly there’s an art to these, something that comes from having complete mastery and control over one’s body. There’s a beauty, an elegance in the motions of these sports that, although coming from years of practice, dedication, hard work and exertion, draws our labeling selves to call it an art form- over something like, say, a fistfight or the act of walking down the street.

Running doesn’t look like ballet. Running is ugly and grotesque at times. The pain face of a runner digging to the finish at the limits of their potential is not as pleasing to the eye as the carefully arranged maquillage of a ballerina.

But when you as an athlete- ballerina, runner, or student of some other sport- do all the little things every day that make you stronger, when you do the things that shift you from a casual runner into a form-focused athlete, something changes. I don’t mean that only elite runners are practicing art when they run, but they are the best at combining the two. I think with the human body as a medium, the chances of an action being classified as art depend on the complexity of, or talent required for, what it can do.

I hate the saying that “everyone who runs is a runner” because it’s not true. Is everyone who paints a painter? No. Is everyone who writes a writer? Also, no. I know a bunch of people are going to get mad reading this and remind me that everyone who runs deserves recognition, and to an extent that’s true, but there are things you must do before you can be considered a runner. I read once that you can tell the difference in any activity between someone who dabbles and someone who is more involved, because they will say the activity as an identifier versus a verb. A painter will not say they paint, they will say they are a painter. A globetrotter will not say they travel, they will call themselves a traveler. It follows that there are those who say they run, and those who say they are runners– therein lies the differentiator.

You become a runner not after a certain place, certain speed or particular action, but once you’ve begun to love the sport, the craft of it and the rituals. The meaning and the depth of it all. Once you’ve began to call yourself a runner.

You are not a runner if you don’t have at least a modicum of respect the for sport, some kind of opinion of it. Same as I’m not a painter just because I own a few paintbrushes and enjoy playing with acrylics and printer paper once in a while.

You might not become a runner in a day, in an instant. It takes years, sometimes.

When did I become a runner? My foray into running began in high school, when I started really working for it and being part of a team and putting effort into the sport. But that was not when I became a runner.

That was in Singapore when there was no one and nothing asking me to run, telling me what to do, and I began to marathon train anyway.


If it takes a certain something to call yourself a runner, what does it take to call running art?

There are criteria for everything, every definition of something, but it’s never in black and white, always in a variety of murky grey shades.

I’ll ask again… what does it take to call running art?

Suppose we set aside physical beauty. Unless you have an intimate knowledge of the sport and the human body and the myriad of ways you can understand and appreciate a race, a hard run… well, just by looking at it, you’re not going to call it art.

What other aspects of running exist? The enormous history of it is one thing. Art has history, or I feel like is at least usually relevant to it.

I guess to compare running to art we would need a clearer definition of art, to be able to hold running up to it as if up to a light, to look at it through the lens of that definition.

Is art something with a true definition or does it, as most things in the world, vary ever so slightly by the definition of the individual?

I’ve explained my confusion at seeing all sorts of things at museums and labled “art” throughout the world. Some people call graffiti a nasty teenage rebellion, others respect is as an artistic cultural phenomenon. The same probably holds true for plenty of art across the world.

Is there anyone who would deny ballet as an art form? Few, probably.

Does art need to be pleasing to the eye? Remembering the toilet- no.

Does it have to be thought provoking? Perhaps.

The one thing I can find in every definition of art from every angle is that it must be influenced by the hand of an individual or group of people. There is no time when you are walking in the forest and you say, wow, look at the art here- and if you do you don’t mean it in the way that would lead to it being included in the halls of a museum. The replication of such a forest, whether in a medium that matched the exact feel of the thing it mimicked or incorporating some new and invigorating element, would be considered art, but not the natural thing itself. Clear?

So- let’s use that as our definition. In order to be art, something must fall under two criteria.

1) it must be something created by a person

2) it must be something an individual is able to consider “art”- not every individual, necessarily, but there have to be at least a minority of people that are able to consider it as such.

Is running art, then?

My mother, who I posed this question to,  asks, “bodies moving in space? of course it’s art!”

Running is an art because:

Once you become a runner, you set the ball rolling in search of improvements on form, time, strength… you begin the process of attempting to perfect the body you’ve been given in order to achieve greater things. The art of running is the art of the body, of what a person can achieve when they fine-tune the vehicle that carries them through life.

Running is an art because:

It links the body and the mind. It demonstrates the effect practicing mental strength can have on overcoming physical limitation. Going for a run allows you to access near and further reaches of your mind, to push past boundaries in your thinking. Art is thought provoking.

Running is an art because:

It is essentially a craft, an activity to be developed and improved upon while learning and exploring the world surrounding it. The work of any craftsman would be considered art- therefore,

running is a form of art.

What do you think?

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