So much of Sebastian Coe's and indeed many other celebrated middle-distance athlete's progress was fuelled by rivalry and a sense of competition. Perhaps it is innate, intrinsic to our genetic code, that competition motivates us to reach new heights. Central to this is the instinct for survival, to work and struggle within the group but to strategically separate oneself from the pack and push forward at the critical moment. Sebastian Coe was known to have impressive running form, and he structured his movements decisively, allowing him to surge ahead of the pack in the last moments of the race.
Sebastian Coe, representative of the essence of the middle distance runner, is of significance, his legacy of progression, speed, dynamism, growth and pioneering, informed the conceptual evolution and formal development of the sculpture.
Mapping the movement and form of the runner reveals interesting topographies of motion that speak of dynamism, strategy, time and distance. The sculpture design originated with the mapping of Coe’s stride, sourced from archival footage, to create a 3D animation of a running figure. Various instances of the simulated strides were selected from the animation to create the group of twelve runners manifest in the sculpture. These figures represent the competitive dynamic of the middle distance running group, moreover, they are also a representation of the race itself, as a continuous narrative, depicting the shifting tempo of start, middle and end. The layout of the sculpture is linear, accentuating the directional movement of the runners along the tapered body of water but it also represents, in the snaking of the tubes’ layout, the cyclical nature of the oval running track, here split and shifted to form the ‘S’-curve. Evolving from the notion of endurance and stamina is the understanding of time as eternal and cyclical, metaphorically represented in the laps run around the oval track, where distance and time are flattened.
Flowing, subtly fluctuating angles of the tubes echo the rhythm and tempo of the mapped strides. The sway of each torso made manifest in these shifting elements, lends dynamism to the compression and expansion of the narrative arrangement- one gets a sense of the bolting start, the jostling competition and finally the break away.
Mimicking the Weightlessness of the athlete in motion, the faceted stainless steel elements that describe the runner’s profiles seem to hover amongst the field of tubes. The figures are defined in negative space, their descriptive matter reduced to mere suggestions of form, their slight presence waxing as we move into the thick of the pack and becoming most consequential as the victor emerges.
The role of this framing of negative space is, however twofold, as the sculpture acts to articulate the relationship between the building and the forest it inhabits. Emergence has thematic significance here, as it is through the permeability of this screen of figures that a dialogue between the architecture and the natural environment takes shape. The building and its geometric forms are echoed in, and framed by the faceted profiles, and the congregation of trees in the opposite woodland emerge through the mimetic, shimmering fence of tubes.