“It’s behind the tree!” the the boy yelled. “It’s right there!” He and his brother were in jail again, and their mom was busy guarding their flag on the other side. But they wouldn’t be there for long. A woman sprinted across enemy lines, tagging them free, and the trio jogged back to their territory, their arms stretched high in triumph.
On a Sunday in October, artist Adrienne Outlaw organized a game of Capture the Flag that allowed children to be models of wellness. Capture the Flag requires team members to communicate and strategize and rewards different levels of athleticism and skill. Players found themselves conversing more with the people they didn’t know than those they did, and adults relied on the speed and gall of children to race to the opponent’s side and capture the flag, their pursuit of fun guiding them every step of the way. The game quickly became an exercise in community bonding as much as physical resilience, and players enjoyed an emotional and spiritual workout to boot.
The game was the latest in Outlaw’s social practice work MeetUp, which invites us to consider the ways we exercise health and harmony with each other. At the core of the piece is the concept that individual responsibility can cause a sea change. A subtle shift in our lifestyle choices–honoring ourselves and bodies, valuing the food that we eat, and celebrating movement–can effect change around us, rippling out to transform our society at large.
MeetUp events have participants considering what we hunger for and why we move. We eat for sustenance and to commune with those we love. Sometimes, we eat to feed something that food alone will not satisfy. We engage in fitness practices to live longer, to look better, to socialize. We exercise to feel good, to beat back stress and keep emotional exhaustion at bay. Sometimes, we exercise to gain entry into an exclusive club of fit people. The deluge of media attention on fitness and the emotional gymnastics of well being are enough to cloud our intentions. By getting out of the gym and onto the field, MeetUp players became willing participants in a workout that left them sore but emotionally nourished.
True to her oeuvre, Outlaw’s MeetUp underlines what really feeds us–communion with each other, the unity of purposeful action, and the benefits of being present for what moves us.