A Line is a Brea(d)thless Length: introducing the physical act of running as a form of drawing

Carali McCall

Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Central Saint Martins, College of Art and Design

University of the Arts London

June 2014


This practice-based investigation offers an understanding of the role of the body in drawing. The research proposes that drawing is not only connected to movement but can be located in a larger inquiry into the performative nature of human activity.

Analysis of artworks produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s provide a context and operative means to explore duration, expenditure of energy, measurement and time in relation to practices of performance and drawing. The examination of these artists’ works is provided to inform an investigation of physical processes of drawing through performance practice. The inquiry also Ieads to an encounter with Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the body as a primary means of understanding our relationship to the world, in particular, the ‘flesh’ as a porous interface that dissolves the boundary between subject and object. This underpins an analysis of performance-based practice that also seeks to investigate the act of drawing and embodiment.

The aim of the research is to investigate how the body as an instrument can be explored through the malleable qualities of drawing. This includes a process of adopting Euclid’s definition of the line as a model to explore linear properties beyond conventional mark making. Comparative analysis of works by Carolee Schneemann and Matthew Barney provide material that has been a key influence upon the research process. These works have influenced the trajectory of performance art in the exploration of resistance, tension, measures of energy and endurance.

A consequent practice interrogated how the body moves through space; using (myself) the runner to articulate a form of drawing that tested the body’s physical limits. A moment of transformation and change occurred when I began to articulate ‘running as drawing’. Vital to this was an understanding of using ‘breath’ and the discipline of marathon training to introduce how the physical act of running can be a viable form of drawing.