Number as Punctum

French artist Pierre Alferi asks: How we might incorporate text and image on the same screen?

He offers three possibilities:

  1. the text becomes an object, composition-wise, in the video image
  2. the text is embedded or camouflaged as part of the image
  3. the text is subtitled or intertitled to the image

This got me thinking about administrative numeration as a text form in high performance running.

In the era of hand-timed races, the official timers would concentrate first on the corpus of the moving body as it crossed the finish line and then record the bib number of the runners (who remained locked in their lanes) thereafter. With the photo finish on the other hand, the number does not play such a subordinate role. In fact, Rule 143.9 of the IAAF rules manual states that "Where Photo Finish equipment is in operation, the Organising Committee may require athletes to wear additional number identification of an adhesive type on the side of their shorts."

In the photo finish, the camera is fixed at the point of the finish line and shifts the focus of the viewer (race official, audience member watching scoreboard) away from the aesthetic of the moving body to the inscription of the numerical text on that bodily object. To borrow the language of Barthes, it is the moving bodies themselves that become the studium of the image in a photo finish, while in serving its administrative purpose, the number (as text) inscribed on the athletic body acts in concert with the graduated clock-ruler at the bottom of the image to form its punctum.

Close Vision in Sport

Space in basketball (and most other objective, goal-oriented sports) is currently conceived as a Euclidean, optic space: the coach draws Xs and Os from a bird's (god's?) eye perspective to delineate and orchestrate the moving bodies on the court; the coach also uses video in a similar fashion to break down the tendencies, successes and failures of self and opponent.

But when ten bodies meet in the enclosed, accelerated space of the basketball halfcourt (and often all may be found within the three-point arc), such remote, optic vision is quite impossible. A close seeing (what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as haptic vision) is necessary in order to process information correctly and determine appropriate movement tactics. It requires one to glaze the eyes over by a fraction and not quite focus on any one object. It also requires the body to "see" in multisensual fashion — for example, by touching other bodies or by listening to their footsteps.

Vectoral Alibi?

In class at EGS this summer, Michael Hardt suggested that the capital at stake appears to be as important as the content it produces — not only for the owners of capital, but for its consumers as well. While he was discussing Hollywood at the time and its production of mystique and spectacle, the same can certainly be said for the world of professional sport. The consumers of professional sport are on intimate terms with player wages, stadium construction costs, league economics (salary caps, luxury taxes, revenue sharing), econometric techniques for cost assessment, media and sponsorship deals, and more.

Is this a symptom of the passage to vectoralism?

Does the "visibility" of capital obscure the stocks and flows of the vectoral?

If so, does it therefore imply that capital becomes the alibi for the vectoral order and its particular repressive logic?