Running walls: the performance of the limit in prison

Paolo Maccagno

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The limit to freedom, represented by the wall of the prison, is the limit to run to reach the finish-line of the marathon: run the limit! Training prisoners to run a marathon as a practice of the limit. Inside and outside meet on the limit, in a suspended place where running is a movement of rehabilitation and transformation.
Go Daddy! is an educational project based upon the pedagogy of resilience and a form of anthropological research into body and movement. It is a case study investigating personal limits through an art performance based on marathon running with prisoner-fathers; a limit-experience as a ‘practice of freedom’ (Foucault) to activate the prison and through it see a social system where neoliberalism is expressed; a pilot project for wider research at the intersection of different academic traditions, pointing towards a new direction for critical engagement with performance. Drawing from that experience, this article examines the potentialities of marathon running in prison as a performance of limits: a healing possibility for personhood to be based on ‘presence’ (Abramovic) and awareness, since, as Foucault notes, the experiential body can become a locus of resistance against normalising power. Through analysis of the Go Daddy! project, this paper considers how an art performance can be an experiment in the sense not of testing a hypothesis but of opening an exploratory path of inquiry into human life and a new way of conducting anthropology as a learning process—in other words, the possibility for art to be science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-59
Number of pages27
JournalThe Scottish Journal of Performance
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

This project is dedicated to all ‘lost fathers’ prisoners of a world of
walls. To all friends of solitude. I would like to thank Lia Sacerdote, President of Bambinisenzasbarre, who welcomed the idea of the project helping me to develop it. A particular thank you to Andrea Muehlebach (University of Toronto) with whom I had many interesting discussions about neoliberalism which provided a fundamental background to the project. I would also like to thank the three anonymous reviewers whose insightful comments have helped to significantly sharpen the theoretical underpinnings and narrative of this article.


  • marathon
  • running
  • prison
  • walls
  • presence
  • limit


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