• Running Beyond Language

    Starting at the same time as Kuopio's marathon (11am on Saturday 5th September 2015) I will run until 1.20pm on Sunday 6th September. That's 26.2 hours on a pedestrian street in Finland. The street is 250 metres, so I'll keep running up and down this for the duration of the performance.

    I will run in silence.

    The audience is warmly invited to sit and watch me, support me, join me in silence and/or run with me (also in silence). Hopefully there will be a live webcam on the street so even if you are not in Finland you can still watch me, comment on me.

    Language enables us to constrain, reason and order life.

    Language encourages us to make life fit us.

    But sometimes life just doesn't fit, events happen that remind us that the very nature of our lives is unstructured, incomprehensible, beyond words.

    Running allows us to access that very area of life that exists beyod reason, beyond sense, It provides the route past langauge, it allows us to just 'be'.

    Running shows us that life is an experience to be felt, not always to be understood, it allows us to experience life as it is, without borders of reason.

    If you run fast enough, language becomes impossible: the body cannot breathe, move and speak all at once.

    If you run far enough language blurs into the landscape: you blur into the landscape.

    There is a transcendence.

    It could be a means of escape.

    It could be a protest.

    It might not be beautiful.

    This is the silent run.

    This performance will be the third collaboration between myself and the Human Performance Unit at the University of Essex. With training, psychological and medical support from leading sports scientists, I have previously investigated the relationship between sport and art with Three Step Endeavour (2010) and 26 marathons in 26 days (2013). For example when I ran 26 full marathons over 26 consecutive days as part of Edinburgh Fringe Festval in 2013, the Human Performance Unit provided regular interventions to ensure I was both physically and mentally safe and able to complete the project successfully. As part of the collaboration, data collected from performances has been used as the basis of scientific research papers that have been published and presented at conference.

    In addition to physical/biological research I try to use extraordinary endeavours to invesitgate a critical investigation into the social role of motivation, support and achievement. The participatory invitation at the heart of Running Beyond Language is crucial to the exploration of the social political value of people running together, in silence, beyond words.

    Hopefully the Human Performance Unit will continue to provide me with support for Runing Beyond Language. They have already done some tests on me and have started to create interventions to ensure I complete the 26.2 hours, and they will continue to support me in the lead up to, and aftermath of the performance. However, I would really like to be accompanied by one of the sports scientists in Finland. Their presence at the performance will enable them to carry out more tests during the event itself, where they will be hoping to understand what changes happen to the female body when it is placed under stress, how the mind reacts to extreme feats of endurance and whether the interventions they have devised have worked, as well as making sure I stay safe for the entirety of the performance. As before, this research will be used to write and present scientific papers , increasing our understanding of how the mind and body reacts to physical, mental and environmental stress.

    The Human Performance Unit will cover the costs of the sports scientist, tests and equipment but I need to cover the costs of their travel, accomodation and food, a total of about £700.00. If you are a business and would like to make a contribution to this amount please email me: vickiweitz@hotmail.com. In return for your donation, I will advertise your company logo on my website and social media sites. My audience figures for 26 marathons was 4.5 million - and whilst this isn't likey to be as high as that there will be some exposure for your business. If you're interested please get in touch.

    Many thanks!!

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  • intangible sounds

    Last week I was fortunate enough to take part in a performance at The Minories Gallery in Colchester. The performance had been created by artists Townley & Bradby and was called: Everything, All At Once, All The Time. It forms part of their practice: Grounded In The Domestic. It was performed by myself, Rebecca Hall, Isabella Martin, James Wilkes and Steven J Fowler,

    For this performance Townley & Bradby had created a soundscape of their family life. As performers sometimes we followed a script, sometimes we improvised around a set of given instructions, we all wore blue socks and we performed behind a perforated screen. The result was a glorious harmonious cacophony of family life. Statuses shifted, sometimes with subtleness, sometimes with a glaring crash. The children of the artists were in the audience and they giggled and gasped as they recognised things they'd said, things that had been said to them. Townley & Bradby write that (Grounded In The Domestic, by Judith Stewart and Townley & Bradby Feb 2015):

    "An art practice that is grounded in the domestic uses family relationships as both the medium and the subject. Collaboration may be unintentional, unnoticed, unwelcome or understood in diverse ways by those involved".

    Hearing what you said is an unusual privilege. Quite often we speak volumes, and a lot of it doesn't have a huge amount of meaning, but we don't always get to hear what we've said, or appreciate the impact of what we've said. On the rare occasions that our voices are recorded we worry more about how awful our voice sounds when it isn't restricted to the interior of our heads that we don't pay much heed to what we're actually saying. And it seems to me that it's only when we argue with someone and they repeat back what we've said that we realise what we've said (and more importantly the impact it has) and go to extreme lengths to pretend we didn't say it.

    Whether you belong to Townley & Bradby's family or not, "Everything, All At Once, All The Time" resonates with recognition, hubris, humour and familiarity. As a performer it has sat with me, gestating. It has made me think about my own family and how we sound. We're different now to how we used to be: since my marriage broke down we've gone from being one family of four to two families of three. I don't know how the boys sound with their Dad anymore, and it's hard to get used to that, but I know how they sound with me. We're developing a routine, a rhythm, it feels like we are made of of water as we ebb and flow around one another. Sometimes we'll all come together, sometimes it might just be two of us. We negotiate space, time, language and respect. We create a dance that shifts constantly - sometimes, to the horror of my sons, the dance is literal. We're finding out how to be a family, I'm finding out what it is to be the mother of teenage boys, they are finding out what it is to be teenage boys, on the cusp of adulthood, we are finding out how to be together, how to be apart. The one constant is love. Just like sound it is intangible, it is Everything, All At Once, All The Time.

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  • Motivate that

    Recently I've been thinking about some of the issues that underlined 26 marathons in 26 days. In particular I've been thinking about motivation.

    Changes at home have led me to question everything I thought I knew about my life and myself. I feel as though I've been living in a cliche, except I thought cliches were bland and all-encompassing. I didn't imagine how painful a cliche can be, or how much it can strip you of the impulse to just breathe.

    I've found my ability to motivate myself has plummeted, initially this was because I couldn't face spending too much time alone, so running for miles on end was out of the question. But the battle between the different parts of your brain (personality/soul/mind) is fascinating. One part really wants to do something, but it is in opposition with another very loud part that really doesn't want to do anything. Sometimes it is the part that shouts the loudest who gets their own way. But what is it that gives one more volume than another - or what is it that allows you to drown out the part you don't want to hear? How much control do we have over the volume?

    Type "how do we motivate ourselves?" into Google and a myriad of suggestions pop up. Most of them seem to agree that you need to think positively, make a plan of action, track progress and reward yourself. Rather than thinking what you don't want, think about what you do want. Know what you want and create an achievable plan to get it. Reward yourself for small achievements along the way. Basically act like a cunning spoiled child: what do I want, and how do I get it? And then when I do get what I want, I'm going to reward myself too. The assumption is that we have a desire to improve ourselves, lose weight, be financially secure, be more active. And perhaps inherently we do. Isn't that what the Amercian Dream is based on? But what happens when you are in such a funk that there are no grand aspirations to improve yourself, and from the minute you struggle out of bed in the morning (if you can even do that) the only thing that gets you through the day is the ability to get back into bed at the end of it.

    I wonder if the key to motivation is not necessarily the desire or will to do grand things, sometimes it can be as simple as the need to get through things. As Arthur Ashe says: "start where you are, use what you have, do what you can". I have to keep going: I have children who need to be looked after, who deserve to be actively loved, who I love more than words can ever say; I have a supportive and loving family; I have loyal, funny and beautiful friends. So maybe it's about looking around you, and not just seeing what you have, but appreciating what you have. One of the only certainties in life is that we will die and things will change. We need to appreciate the moment we are in because that is the only concrete thing we have. And even if that moment is horrendous, it will still pass, and the survival of that moment gives us the strength to get through the next and the next and the next, until we can begin to appreciate the beauty around us.

    Motivation isn't something you can touch or hold onto, it isn't tangible and it certainly doesn't last. It has an ebb and flow. Sometimes it teases you and at other times it can power you to the top of a mountain. There is no one definitive answer to what motivates you, it is as personal as your fingerprint. Of course there are universal truths and generalisations, but at the core of it, you have your own personal blueprint on how to motivate yourself. You just have to find it.

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  • Everyday Art

    Yesterday I was the guest waiter at The Hunt and Darton Cafe in Colchester. The cafe is a pop-up experience: it arrives, lasts for a month and then leaves. Ordinarily it prefers to occupy empty shops in the high street, but a last minute let down means that this time they find themselves in the foyer of Firstsite. It's an art gallery but for the moment it's also empty. Until the arrival of the delicious Hunt and Darton that is.

    Everything in the cafe is art, including the customers. There is a business board that records the takings, the profit and loss, any complaints. Customers are required to chalk themselves in as covers. The cafe is styled with an ecclectic mix of furniture, old jigsaws and a vast array of mismatched crockery. Customers get to choose which record (yes, record) to play. Some days are 'you do it' days: the customers take turns to serve each other, or there are community days, where the customers are introduced to each other, encouraged to sit with people they don't know, and are applauded as they leave.

    As the guest waiter I was the Competitive Waiter: I was trying to be the best. I had four training zones. Each one represented an element of waitering that I felt was important and would contribute to being an Olympic waiter. Sometimes I trained on my own, sometimes I trained with the customers and sometimes the customers chose their own training zone.

    Training zone one was Waiting. Turns out I was rubbish at this. Not too bad if I knew what I waiting for, but rubbish without a purpose. I think I managed to last 10 seconds before I got distracted and wandered off. One customer told me she was so good at waiting that she missed the bus she was waiting for.

    Training zone two was Balancing. One gentleman and I spent some time balancing on one leg. I had another lengthy and very enjoyable conversation with another customer in which we managed to balance the world. If you suddenly felt everything was ok it was probaly because we had just put the world to rights. You're welcome. A group of lads spent some time practicing balancing objects on top of one another. They were skateboarders so were already very proficient in balancing. Dorian challenged me to balance a tray on the fingertips of one hand. The tray was to have a pyramid of glasses on, and I was supposed to be able to pour champagne in without looking. I progressed from just holding the tray to being able to balance the tray and a pineapple on my fingertips. Some work to go. However, my son has just come into the study and balanced my phone and my purse on my head and I'm pleased to say they didn't fall off. Perhaps my practice yesterday paid off.

    Training zone three was Being Deferential. This was a tricky one, not being too subservient but letting the customer know they were important. Not many people wanted to practice this one. It also felt like an extension of Balancing: the ability to balance good manners with an efficient service. Not being too obtrusive and not being too invisible.

    Training zone four was Not Judging. Perhaps the hardest training zone of all. Because as soon as you are aware of it you realise how much you judge. Sometimes it's a compliment: that's a good choice (complimenting good taste but also implying there is a bad choice). Sometimes it's just a case of keeping your opinions to yourself: having good manners (see training zone three).

    The Competitive Waiter wasn't quite as aggressive as I thought she might be. I had imagined she would be overly enthusiastic and perhaps a little overbearing, but actually the quest to be a good waiter led to a delicate dance between manners, grace, hard work and remembering what you're doing. Like the cafe itself, the Competitive Waiter is a piece of Everyday Art: offering the opportunity to have conversations you might not otherwise have had, and with people you might not otherwise have spoken to. It created the space to stop, think, connect and engage.

    Each training zone had it's own difficulties. Frank judged me as a 9/10, but said he doesn't give full marks (there's always room for improvement). I'm quite happy with that.

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  • Begin again

    I've been thinking some more about new beginnings: the excitement, the potential of promises, the rush for whatever 'it' is to get past being a beginning.

    Yet once you get past that beginning stage 'it' loses it's magic, it's appeal, it's lure.

    The excitement gives way to the mundane, the promises get broken or forgotten.

    We give up.

    We go back to where we started.

    And we begin again.

    Sometimes this happens with diets or with exercise because we set our goals too high: we want to run for 3 miles straight away, or we diet all day and expect that will make us skinny. We don't appreciate that, particularly if you haven't run for a long time, being able to run at all is an achievement. Who cares if you first run for 30 secs or 30 minutes? No-one else will care, except you. Your friends will applaud whatever you achieve because they are your friends and they celebrate you (unless you are unfortunate enough to have a miserable unfeeling bunch of friends). And who else would beat you around the head because you slipped in your diet? Just you.

    So drop your expectations, don't aim so high. Celebrate the little steps. Just like the cliche about looking after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves says: watch the details. If every day you eat a bit less and move a bit more, you will see results. They might not be as quick as you like, but it's better than no results. And something else: stop making excuses. Don't precede your achievement by saying, "it's not much, but ...", or "it's silly, but ...". It is a big deal and it isn't silly. You are a big deal and you aren't silly.

    Accept that things take time and things change over time. A relationship is not the same after five years as it is after five months. The excitement may have gone but hopefully that has been replaced with something much deeper, something that exists beyond words, and beyond reason.

    Here's another cliche: every day is a new beginning. Every day we have a chance to start over and start appreciating who we are. In fact, why wait for the day to begin? Every minute is new: we are constantly given the opportunity to repeat ourselves or re-invent ourselves. Of course we'll make mistakes, we're only human, but (and here's another cliche), it isn't the mistake that matters, it's what you do about it that matters. Actually, i don't entirely agree with that though - some mistakes do matter, particularly if they affect/hurt/endanger someone else. Sometimes you do just need to think before you act: do something about the mistake before you make it. Use that to make you stronger, to build your integrity, to find your kindness (both to yourself and to others). Begin again.

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