Kai Syng Tan and James Steventon are UK based artists, researchers and runners who have agreed to explore the theme of running with us. They see the sport as a social and cultural practice, with strong links to their respective artistic projects.
Kai Syng Tan is an artist, researcher and art curator. She became interested in running while writing her PhD at the Slade School of Fine Arts at University College London. Together with her PhD examiner, Dr Alan Latham, she organised the first edition of the RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale #r3fest in 2014 in London.
Out of this first edition of the festival was the creation of the Running Cultures Research Group. This is formed of academics, artists, athletes and geographers interested in running, particularly its social, creative and cultural dimensions. The group explores running in a diverse range of ways, including as a tool for interacting with the world, for thinking about gender, borders and the passage of time. For example, the second edition presented the practice of running by homeless women and that of the #freetorun project, which promotes running in conflict zones. Since then, RUN! RUN! RUN! has had its third edition in Paris, and continues to reinvent itself to question the world through running, thanks to a dynamic network of artists and researchers. RUN! RUN! RUN! has grown from festival, to a thriving research group. Please sign up !
In 2014, on the occasion of the first edition of the festival, Kai was introduced to James Steventon. Artist, writer and runner, lecturer and director of Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, he is particularly interested in the concept of endurance, first of all as an individual quality, but also as a way of thinking about our strategies and social organisations. Attached to the Barthesian idea of "sport-spectacle", James wishes to share the experience of running with others. "A song for Eurydice", a project developed with artist Jason Singh, for example, involved the construction of a sound performance on the tempo given by his heart rate while he is in full effort on a treadmill. In this way, James' heart and Jason's music respond to each other, nourish each other, and give a glimpse of James' inner experience.
For another of his performances, "The only running footman", he runs through the English countryside, dressed in an 18th-century running messenger's costume. In evoking their work, James and Kai formulate a common hope: could this return to the body through running be a way of thinking collectively about the challenges and struggles foretold by climate change ?
Coming up: There will be a new strand to the Running Cultures Research Group called the Running Artfully Network (RAN) to be launched at Fermynwoods Contemporary Art. RAN will focus on running and art as a paradigm to create meaningful interventions in response to our time of multiple crises. Look out for the call-out for RAN at fermynwoods.org in December 2020 and get involved.
Further information about A Song For Eurydice at: https://www.jamessteventon.com/words-out/a-song-for-eurydice
Further examples of James Steventon’s running/endurance related work: https://www.axisweb.org/p/jamessteventon