The Running Researcher

So here we are: 2022 has just started and the first months have passed after the start of my new work as Professor of Artistic Connective Practices at Fontys University of the Arts Tilburg (FHK). While this first phase has been characterised by a variety of “introductory” activities such as conversations with new colleagues, teachers, researchers, heads of studies, students and the board, I am extremely happy that a number of actual projects have been initiated as well – and the first project, despite being small, has already materialised: Getting to know the city, its places and citizens, connecting with it – through running.

Running is a practice I have engaged in for a few years, and since I have been running longer distances regularly (between 15 kilometers and marathon distance) I have experienced not only an increased bodily and physical, but also more mental fitness and agility; running in various forms has developed towards being truly integral to my artistic and intellectual work in terms of emerging ideas, and connecting to places and surroundings, quite literally through “spending time on my feet”.

Inspired by “conceptual runner” Rickey Gates and specifically his projects Transamericana and Every Single Street, I teamed up with Heleen de Hoon, head of the Master Performing Public Space, as a dramaturge to work with me on the idea of running the city, talk to its citizens and experience its various places, areas and neighbourhoods. Heleen and I invited Tilburg residents working at FHK and asked each of them to propose one or more places, areas, neighbourhoods to visit, accompanied by stories related to these places. This initial way of acquaintance was an inspiring way to create connections, right at the table, around the map with which we worked. And although collectivity and collaboration certainly belong to the core ideas and principles of the lectorate, I thought it would actually be a good idea – because I come as someone new to the FHK and the city – to start by exploring my own view and experience of the city, alone. So I decided to do this first run on my own, alone, with the suggestions and associations of the colleagues embedded in the run.

Sharing places and stories.
Fascinated by people on the market, Mariska van Zutven takes photos of these people and cuts their shapes after having made black and white prints of them.

I completed the 53K course on the 17th of November 2021, supported by Heleen and Ingrid Westendorp, whom I met in between to provide me with food and water and in order to share observations, first experiences and reflections. I am very thankful for the generosity and hospitality of the Circus Academy and its head, John van Riemsdijk: We were offered the possibility to use the hall of the academy as start and finish, to warm up and have food after the completed run.

The team: Ingrid Westendorp, myself and Heleen de Hoon at the Academy for Circus and Performance Art.

At the moment, Heleen and I work together on the reflection of this part of the project, which will find its form in an exposition on the Research Catalogue. It is inspiring that, although we are not entirely sure yet what the “output” and “impact” of the project are (despite obvious resonances with the people I talk to, who are all really enthusiastic), the project already generates a number of emerging follow-up ideas: these include conversations with various groups and people active in the city regarding themes that are related to the project, such as the Tilburg-based long distance runner Greg van Hest (who ran the Olympic Marathon) or the skating group F.E.E.S.T.; but also thoughts regarding work in the various neighbourhoods in the city, and further exploration of running as a connective practice.

Our map to work on, to think and explore with, including the course that links the various places.

Below are a few photos I took during the run, covering quite a bit of the places where I were. Without much comment at this point, the Research Catalogue exposition will present all of this, worked out a little more. Enjoy Tilburg!

2 Comments

  1. What a great idea and collaboration!! Very well done; you’ve turned running into functional performance art. A perfect way for you and your new colleagues to get to know each other’s minds and ways and of course for you to learn the city and bring the school to the people.

    Liked by 1 person

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