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February 09, 2008


runner.jpg [photo: "Athletes"] Aesthetics begins in the body. Is that why running is so ugly? Is that why running makes beautiful people temporarily ugly?

It is ugly, but not necessarily pointless; it makes people ugly but admirable. Running may be necessary, healthy or fulfilling to the runner, and it may be exciting to watch, but it is not a beautiful action nor does running ever make anyone look beautiful. Evolution did not design us to run efficiently. That must be one reason why beauty dissolves in the heat of the race. Stillness, by contrast, seems almost intrinsically enhancing to a person and their face.

The association of stillness with beauty and authenticity has always been an established truth for advocates of neo-classical ideals. The idea dates back at least to Winckelmann, who in his writings on Greek sculpture, praised the "noble simplicity and sedate grandeur" ("eine edle Einfalt, und eine stille Grösse") of ancient art. The "more tranquillity reigns in a body", Winckelmann argued, "the fitter it is to draw the true character of the soul; which, in every excessive gesture, seems to rush from her proper centre, and being hurried away [by] extremes becomes unnatural."

Perhaps this is the secret of dance? It is the gravity-dominated baseness of all running sublimated into an illusion of weightless stasis as the dancer seems to hang impossibly and forever in mid-air, drawing the true character of what we once called the soul.

Posted by njenkins at February 9, 2008 12:42 AM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins