Critical Run Sydney

by the-biennial-project 27. October 2011 16:04


CRITICAL RUN  SYDNEY                       Marlene Sarroff

Artists with a social conscience have always looked to a group or a movement that provides a space for expressing ideas and debate on issues of the day. Critical Run Sydney was first activated in April 2010 by two Sydneysiders, Saha Jones and Nicole Dennis. The Critical Run provides Sydney artists with a platform that generates debate on social and political issues, actually an art format - that becomes a frame of interaction, form and expression, both visually and socially.


Nicole Dennis (left) and  Saha Jones (right), the facilitators of the Sydney Critical Run.

Critical Running is a debate format conceived by Danish-French artist Thierry Geoffroy. He has been creating stimulating situations that help participants develop their awareness of emergencies in today’s contemporary society. Each project intends to enable participants to face together, before it is too late, the important issues of today through debate. The Critical Run is a format for debating while running. In a collapsing world (he suggests) we cannot continue to sit and sleep through conferences or make small talk at openings. New forms of critical debate have to be activated. Running through the city, participants can train their awareness muscles on a journey that will leave them breathless and invigorated. This art format is an artwork in itself and has increased its focus on becoming widespread by expanding into a global artistic movement. It has spread to major cities worldwide including Moscow, Naples, Cairo, Brussels, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Venice, New York, London, Istanbul and now Sydney.


The Sydney Critical Run has staged several runs through different parts of the city, debating subjects that arise at the time and are topical and urgent.  During the 2010 Sydney Biennale, it created several  subjects for debate, mostly concerning the motivations and aims of the Biennale.  It included debates such as – ‘Corporate sponsorship for the arts - Do artists know the aims of their sponsors?’.
Members of the public were asked, ‘What is the theme of the Biennale?’ Another run took place in response to a sudden change of the Australian Prime Minister - Critical Run ran down King Street Newtown (an inner Sydney suburb) and debated issues of ‘political diversion, gender roles and democracy’ and ‘is social media ruining our lives?’, as well as ‘is coolness apathy?’


Artists are not known for their sporting prowess, so getting them to run could prove troublesome. The Sydney Critical Run invests an incredible effort into promoting the run, in having young energetic leaders, in talking up aspects of originality, art history, or the artist’s duty for advocating change  - all of course valid and important issues.  Immediately you find yourself saying yes, please count me in!


The Critical Run Sydney’s formal banner was SHOULD ARTISTS BE INSTITUTIONALIZED? In response to Goran Tomic’s exhibition ‘See Saw’, held at The Vanishing Point Gallery, we were invited to explore the topic based on Tomic’s own experience as a self taught artist. The run started from the gallery.

At first, the run can seem like an endurance test, depending on your level of fitness (or lack of). However, as the run progresses it becomes extremely invigorating. Although as you can imagine, it can be disconcerting when you are starting to sweat a little (or pant heavily) and a microphone is thrust into your face by a very fit knowledgeable inquisitor, and the questions roll out to you and there is no choice but to rapidly reply. Speech becomes an integral part of the run. As the critical run is a format for criticism, it’s not running to escape somewhere but running for solutions. It requires critical solutions.  The questions are fired and answers fired back, the thinking evolves, the group moves along. Words, thoughts, ideas have to be to the point, you can’t talk too much in between the slight gasping for breath. The video camera comes around to you - stamina and will power must avail as you can’t afford to appear too embarrassed about your public persona - although I think it is unavoidable. 


Upon completing the run you feel inspired and invigorated - a very positive experience all round. As Saha Jones says, ‘Critical run draws attention to the fact that we separate our minds and our bodies – it is trying to bring them back together. People think it is unnatural, they think, ‘Why do you need to run and debate? But it’s a metaphor, its really intelligent. If you are activating your body then in turn you are activating your mind, it leads you to new places, it gives you energy’.


The energy will be pumping at this years Venice Biennale as The Biennial Project and the Critical Run Group will meet - and it is anticipated that The Biennial Project will be putting their running shoes on. The theme of the Venice Biennale Critical Run will be ‘Can Freedom of Speech be Curated?’ – a subject that we are sure to have opinions on – that is if we can manage to make ourselves understood through our panting! See you there! See Venice Critical Run for more.


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