A physical practice can also be a vehicle to expanding the possibilities of expression and knowledge for an artist. In an interview about her workouts,
: “I realized that my body was another kind of knowledge and place that I’d been working on. I was making work about that, but I wasn’t really using my own body. There’s this entirely new physical vernacular that I didn’t know.”
On a more mundane level, exercise can broaden the types of expression available to an artist. Van der Werve began to get in shape in order to realize his film Nummer Negen: The Day I Didn't Turn with the World (2007) in which he stood on the geographic North Pole and, for 24 hours straight, and turned counterclockwise while the earth turned clockwise. For Cassils, whose body is one of the mediums in which they work—“both an instrument and an image,” in their words—a given performance will determine how they exercise.
“For some works,” they say, “it’s about bulking, having a visual read that confounds one’s expectations about what a ‘female body’ [her quotes] can do, versus other works where I’m doing a really intense ballistic power movements, where I have to drop a bunch of mass and train for flexibility and speed and power and agility.” Having a fit and malleable body is for Cassils the equivalent of a full paint box for a painter—it increases what they can do and say.
And scientists would do well to listen. Because, although the number of artists regularly exercising may not fill a yoga class, those who do illuminate many aspects of creativity that remain unstudied. Beyond mental dexterity, they tell us that creativity thrives when there is emotional balance, models for practice, and an array of tools at hand, not to mention ideas in which the muscles, too, can revel.