Performance

The Brain in the Body

When talking about athletes, it is common to praise their short memories: a great quarterback, for example, will instantly forget an interception so he can go right back out and throw a touchdown pass. We know why this is important in sport, but we don’t know why physiologically this is important. However, Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have reported finding the neural networks that connect the brain directly to the adrenal medulla, which is near the kidneys and is responsible for “the body’s rapid response in stressful situations.” The study showed that the areas of the cerebral cortex “that are active when we sense conflict, or are aware that we have made an error, are a source of influence over the adrenal medulla. ‘This observation,’ said Dr. Strick, ‘raises the possibility that activity in these cortical areas when you re-imagine an error, or beat yourself up over a mistake,…

Art and Fitness II

Pictures of people doing handstands in exotic locations, usually while on vacation, have become a mainstay of the fitness world in the New Frontier. I’ve been guilty of a few. Here I am on the Parthenon, for instance: One can make the argument that this particular strand of selfie culture has its origin, or at least an early exemplar, in Conceptual Art, Robert Kinmont’s 8 Natural Handstands (1969). Depictions of people engaged in fitness activities and sport are among the very oldest in art. Here, unlike those first images, there is almost no emphasis on the physique; rather it’s on the performance itself, which in this case feels like something of a party trick—and that’s probably why there’s a whiff of narcissism about it. That sense of showing off is only strengthened by the fact that it’s a self-portrait, one executed in a notably heroic setting, balanced on a rock…

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