mActivity Fitness Center

Bad at Sports? New Acquisitions to the Flatfile

July 18—September 14, 2019

Crystal Heiden, How to Live w/o WiFi & Other Drugs, 2019. Watercolor, micron pen, 9×12 inches.

There is a longstanding joke in the art world that “all good artists are bad at sports.” This cheeky saying has exerted widespread influence, even inspiring the name of one of the longest running contemporary art podcasts. But when we take a moment to assess the validity of this statement, we find ourselves asking questions about the mind-body connection and its relationship to the ways we cultivate a sense of worth, strength, and care for others. As curators, we wonder how bad can an artist be at sports? And how, to begin with, do we define a “sport”?

This exhibition proposes that playing sports and making art are sometimes one in the same and often not as mutually exclusive as we think. Both require discipline, practice, mind-body engagement, respect for time, and commitment. As these activities become part of our daily lives, we might wake up at the crack of dawn or burn the midnight oil to pursue them. In Haruki Murakami’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Running,” the author describes sustaining a creative practice as an act of endurance, akin to running a marathon. He equates the working habits, experiences with physical pain, and breakdown of the marathon-running body with the working artists’ body.

What, then, would happen if we began to think about art-making as sport and hone in on the physical activities that define our creative practice? This group exhibition of seven artists, which draws from recently acquired works in Artspace’s Flatfile, takes on this proposition. We posed the following questions to each artist and included a selection of their responses.

1: List 5 actions or gestures that encompass your creative practice.

2: On a scale of 1–10, how physically exhausted do you feel after a day in the studio?

3: Do you need to be physically active to maintain your artistic practice? To maintain a clear mind?

4: Do you like sports?  Did you play sports as a youth? Do you play sports today?

5: What kinds of activities help you engage with your community?

6: To what extent is your artistic practice informed by physical activity?


This exhibition was made possible with generous support from mActivity, whose gym and community hub is the backdrop and inspiration for this show.