Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I Learned About Beauty, Strength, Voice, and Vision from a Centurian MK3 Military Tank

Dear Friends,

     I feel very lucky to be invited to write a traveling story on the "You Can Get There from Here" blog!  I would like to share a little article I was asked to write for the USA Track and Field Association.  It was about my experience in the summer of 2011 in the Venice Biennale, in Venice, Italy.

     In August of 2011, I ran on top of an overturned military tank in an international art exhibit.  Sound strange?  It did to me and to everyone I spoke with when they asked me about my summer plans.  I was a running performance artist in the installation called, “Track and Field” within the United States Exhibit, “Gloria.” This exhibit was created by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla for the 2011 Venice Biennale.  The Biennale has been referred to as “The Olympics of the Art World.” Countries choose one exhibit to represent them in this awe-inspiring collection of art to be seen by art enthusiasts and collectors from around the globe.

      When I saw the original ad from the USA Track and Field Association I saw the words, “Perform,” “Art Exhibit,” “Italy.”  “Wow!” I thought to myself, so, I e-mailed, I called, I prayed, I posted the ad on the fridge and was accepted. I started training for good form, for grace on a tank, for not being afraid of heights, for people watching or in any other way that I thought would help for a running event I never imagined.  I didn’t realize that the running would be second to all else I learned.  I became part of a family of people that included runners from all over the United States, artists, performers, and visitors from all over the world. In the process, I also gained new definitions of beauty, strength, voice, and vision.

     I was in awe of the beauty of all of the people that became part of the experience.  The runners were Olympians, world ranked marathoners, ironman triathletes, sprinters, coaches, filmmakers, artists, educators, and more.  Dave Durante, our Athletic Recruiter, gave us encouragement, information and instructions about our time in Venice.  I was also grateful for other people who were part of the experience, inspiring The Rose City Runners, my family in the United States and Italy, the other performers, the visitors, and the artists.  Alessandro and Matthew, who work for the Guggenheim Museum became my “coaches” as they protected the tank, watched and gave me clues about how much time was left in my 15-minute performance.

     I was in awe of the strength required to perform as a runner or as a gymnast.  While there I lived with other runners and the gymnasts who performed on the other installations and sculptures.  Their concentration, flexibility, and strength were amazing!  When I started performing, I realized there were elements of strength I needed that I had never encountered before.  The treadmill went at a slow speed so I had to run on my toes, with high knees (which resulted in a lot of sore calf-muscles).  The 10-foot drop (at least) to the left of the treadmill required me to get over my fear of heights in a hurry.  The treadmill shook with the vibrations of the tank from side to side.  There was also the sound of the treads, a loud, metal on metal, grinding, unbelievable (sometimes comforting) sound.  When we turned the tank on each morning – people came from everywhere to find the source of the noise and then watched while covering their ears.

     Another factor that made it challenging were people taking pictures and videos around the tank and underneath the treadmill too.  The performance, while it looked simple required a lot.  It required concentration to be: safe, to be graceful, to perform well, to smile subtly to children who waved, to be one with the sound of the tank, to be aware of the 10-foot drop, and the very large, scary metal treads moving behind you. While concentrating, I was also thinking about how I loved that gorgeous tank, how grateful I was for the experience and how I felt like giggling out loud at the same time.

     I was in awe as I was reminded of the power of our voice.  After each session, visitors would clap, give high fives, give a thumbs-up and just wanted to chat.  People from all over the world wanted to talk about the tank, the message, the runner, and world peace too.  The runners were anonymous but people were curious to know what we did outside of running on a piece of art.  I enjoyed hearing people’s questions and interpretations of the art and we laughed together as we shared insights about life too.  Their stories energized me and reminded me of the power of our voice.  We never know how our voice, our art, our story, our running, our laughter, or our words can bring a positive message to other people in the world.

     I am in awe of the power of opportunity, imagination, and a vision for what is possible.  The whole experience stretched what I understand about running, performing, and our part in the international community, art, and gratitude.  I am grateful for the beauty of all the people I met and worked with and the artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.  I am grateful for the strength of the performers and the ability to perform on the tank.  The experience affirmed for me the power that our voice, and our conversations with others can have in the world.  Lastly, I am grateful for the opportunity offered by the USA Track and Field Association that helped me to expand my vision of all that is possible.

Most Sincerely,
Kimberly Borin

P.S. One day after I was running,  I had the chance to meet a family who was watching the tank performance.  They allowed me to take a picture of their son's shirt - which I thought had a very powerful message!

For More Information about the Venice Biennale:
The Indiana Museum of Art page about the Biennale - http://www.imamuseum.org/venice
The Venice Biennale Home Page - http://www.labiennale.org/en/Home.html
The New York Times, “Combining People and Machines in Venice” -  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/arts/design/allora-and-calzadilla-at-venice-biennale-review.html?_r=1
The New York Times Article About the Venice Biennale - http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/arts/design/allora-calzadilla-gloria-venice-biennale.html?_r=1
The New York Times Artsbeat Blog - http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/venice-biennale
The New York Times Article and Slideshow - http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/06/09/arts/design/Biennale.html


  1. Wow! What an experience. Thank you so much for sharing. How many "performances" did you actually do?

  2. Kimberly, you are amazing! You are a gift to the world. Thanks for your voice, as well as your beauty, strength and vision. See you at yoga.

  3. Thank you so much for your comments! I ran for 7 days at least 2 performances a day - and on one day - 4 times. Thank you very much for reading my story. I felt so fortunate to be part of the exhibit. Thank you both for encouraging me in my writing too!