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John Gerrard: Exercise (Djibouti) 2012

The Legacy Fellowship, the first-ever fellowship in higher education to fuse art and sport, was awarded to John Gerrard in summer 2011 following an open call for submissions. Over the next twelve months Gerrard identified and collaborated with a number of elite athletes who were all in training for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as the point of departure for an ambitious cinema-scale project called Exercise (Djibouti) 2012.

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Excercise (Djibouti) 2012 features teams of simulated athletes performing a series of precise, repetitive routines on a simulated mudflat in the Horn of Africa, and the piece reflects on the potent links between competitive sport, military training, theatrical performance and dance. In so doing it extends and develops themes that the artist has explored in other recent commissions, including Infinite Freedom Exercise (near Abadan, Iran) (2011) for Manchester International Festival and Live Fire Exercise (Djibouti) (2011) for the Royal Ballet in London.

The work premiered as a unique installation at the Old Power Station in Oxford as part of the London 2012 Festival and Turning Point South East’s RELAY programme before going on to a further showing at Southwark Old Town Hall in a group exhibition organised by South London Gallery called Pursuit of Perfection: The Politics of Sport. The periods of exhibition in both locations were timed to coincide with the presence of the Olympic torch locally, and the various opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Organised by the Ruskin School of Art in collaboration with Oxford University Sport and Modern Art Oxford and supported by Audiomotion Studios, National Lottery through Arts Council EnglandCulture IrelandTurning Point South EastJohn Fell OUP Research Fund, ArtAV, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Podium and Magdalen College, Oxford.