Labanotation

Labanotation is a standardized system for recording and analyzing any human motion. Developed by Rudolf von Laban in 1928, it is used primarily as a means of archival notation in dance and theatre, though it is also used in other forms of movement analysis.

Labanotation

"The immediate obvious use of movement notation has been the preservation of choreography for future revival. This indeed was the purpose of each of the historical systems of dance notation. Because of the inadequacies of earlier methods of notation, we cannot be certain, even upon a careful reading of Feuillet for example, that eightennth-century court dances are being reconstructed today precisely as they were originally performed. Details of style and execution were left unstated because knowledge of these was assumed. But with fully detailed scores, generations to come will be able to dance choreographies of today exactly as the choreographer would wish." — Ann Hutchinson Guest

"Consider chess, a game with centuries of history. Were the original archivists of the game to understand the possibilities afforded by the elegant simplicity of the grid system? Were they to foretell how this grid system could offer a higher degree of information compression in their archival pursuits? Were they to imagine competition by telepresence? Between human and computer? Or that said computer would destroy the human and become a celebrity?" — sportsbabel

"The language of the human body is complex and it will not be possible to do a satisfying simulation of it using computers before computer scientists give up their rough simplifications in simulation and notation of movement and use the experiences collected in the last seventy years (and the centurys before) in dance notation and make them their own." — Christian Griesbeck

"The unity of language is fundamentally political." — Deleuze and Guattari, ATP, p. 101

the sports police+judiciary, parallax view

From the World Anti-Doping Agency yesterday:

"WADA announced that it had approved a Memorandum of Understanding formalizing its cooperation with Interpol, the world’s largest police organization. This Memorandum of Understanding, approved by Interpol at its October 2008 General Assembly, provides a framework for cooperation between the two organizations in tackling doping, in particular in the areas of evidence gathering and information sharing."

* * *

Indeed, we must recognize that since the eight-year window essentially renders the current winners temporary, the boundaries of the competition space mutate over time to match the shape not only of the stadium, the testing lab, and the specimen storage facility, but also of the sites of out-of-competition testing and the transportation and transmission vectors through which these flows of human corporeality and competitive uncertainty travel. Qualitatively, this suggests that Bale’s formal conception of the contemporary sports stadium must be revisioned as a topological figure to account for this mutability and the social relations these changing spatial configurations produce in a shift from the optics of surveillance to the haptics of control. The potential vulnerabilities that exist in this topological model as competition moves out of the stadium and into smooth space should also be understood in a technical sense from both material and immaterial perspectives. Not only do anti-doping authorities need to secure samples from intruders, chemical change, etc., but they must also secure the data once it has crossed the threshold from the biological to the electromagnetic. And not only is that data susceptible to interception during transmission, but the physical storage devices that enable database mining and statistical regression are themselves vulnerable, given their "penchant for remanence."

Smith, S. (2008). WADA as sporting Empire: Prospects and shadows. Pathways: Critiques and Discourse in Olympic Research—Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium for Olympic Research, Beijing, CHN.

Stereoscopic Logic

Beijing Fireworks

Understood architecturally, the Beijing Olympic Games most fully realized an aesthetic accomplishment of stereoscopic logic in the ludic context. No distinction was recognized between real and virtual spaces in the process, which we witnessed most acutely during the Opening Ceremonies, one of the most watched television broadcasts in human history. Consider attempts to alter weather patterns and ensure optimal studio conditions for the television production, or the substitution of a pretty muted girl for a chubby one with a beautiful voice, or the digitally-created fireworks accompanying those bursting in the real of Beijing's thick evening skies. This stereoscopic logic, which destroys all Euclidean conceptions of space and time, is but the most visible evidence that Beijing 2008 constitutes the Last Olympics, a signal at the end of sporting modernity and a punctuation mark to more than a century of athletic progress.

Beijing TraditionBeijing ScreenBeijing BBQ

Sporting Discipline and Kept Time

The thought occurs to me in a public square outside the train station in Köln:

I am fascinated by skateboarders and their sporting ilk.

Skateboarding is a skill that I was never able to easily grasp as a youngster and today it eludes me completely, though I am even more intensely aware of the sport's aesthetics and politics. All of which is to say that skateboarding requires a disciplined body in order to execute its skills, a particular form of discipline not immediately subsumable under a blanket label of athleticism, and a discipline that I lack and envy in others.

But hasn't sportsBabel become an extended polemic against the disciplining of bodies for sporting purposes? I suppose to some degree that it has, so perhaps I ought to begin delineating a personal ethics of sporting discipline.

As a starting point, we turn to Debra Shogan, who points out that there can be no sporting performance in the absence of a disciplined body. Any sporting skill requires a sophisticated coordination of muscle groups major and minor; an articulation of this motor potential with ground, ball, board, or other technical apparatus; and an ability to pass through space and time in a fashion appropriate to the sport question.

Here we face our first challenge: what should we consider an "appropriate" sporting movement?

To determine what is "appropriate" we must begin to look at the sport's formal requirements, its purposes and goals. Dare we settle on something so binary as objective and subjective sport classifications to construct our argument? For now we shall, though I suspect we'll find these categories limiting in the end.

Once again, we are beginning with the premise that there can be no sporting performance without the prior existence of the disciplined body. But once we divide sports into objective and subjective categories, the character of the disciplined body is divided as well. In the case of objective sport performance goals are fairly clear cut and there usually can only be one winner in an athletic contest.

Take the sport of running, for example. Humans have always been runners, whether to catch a quarry, escape from a predator, transport from one place to another, or contest Olympic championships. Running is a very naturally-learned physical activity even though it is very distinguishable biomechanically from accelerated walking. The pumping of the arm opposite the leg that is being lifted and propelled forward is necessary for this skill to occur, and should be considered an appropriate form of bodily discipline, one that is self-learned and imposed.

What, then, constitutes an inappropriate form of discipline in running? It is the discipline imposed on a body by another. It is when we cease to describe a discipline of the self and begin to describe the diagram of power that disciplines the self. If there is a turning point to be found in running, it comes with the introduction of timing to the race process.

When two or more people have a footrace, in the majority of cases the runners themselves can determine the winner; even when the race is close, the kinaesthetic sense of being-in-body is enough (if the contestants are honest with themselves) to determine the winner. If not, they turn around and race again.

Even when the gaze of an "impartial" third-party judge is introduced, we have not yet crossed a barrier into an inappropriate disciplining of the sporting body since, generally speaking, this judge simply confirms what the running bodies already know but are perhaps unwilling to admit in their competitiveness.

The act of timing, however, brings a particular and peculiar violence upon the sporting body, since the disciplining ceases to be a local disciplining of the self and crosses a threshold to become a general formula for efficient production by imposing the tyranny of the clock. Put another way, timing a race serves little purpose if it is only done once. In the absence of other times with which to compare, this temporal measurement becomes a number without context and therefore meaningless.

No, the purpose of timing is to create an archive for comparative purposes: times of past performance, benchmarks for future performance, markers of record performance. Optimal time becomes the alibi for a most brutal violence to the sporting body that goes beyond a self-discipline to broader networks of power and economy constraining the self. This must be considered an inappropriate disciplining of the sporting body, even though it leads to body movements that are appropriate for the formal requirements of the sport in question.

Discipline(s)

Before the disciplinary body is disciplined as such, it is a sensing body. And while the object of discipline is administered in part by the remote optic gaze, for the subject-in-discipline the process of becoming is embodied. It is felt in the pain of muscular fatigue, in the control over range of motion at joint angles, in the acute sensation of tactility and proprioception, etc. Before the body is disciplined, it senses.

So if the State requires fit and disciplined bodies, say, for its military apparatus, it also requires sensing bodies. Any counter-response will also require its own sensing, disciplined bodies, though with a discipline appropriate to the haptics of the control society rather than the optics of surveillance and docility.

The Wall

Shaq Dives Into Crowd

When a basketball player dives headlong out of bounds to save a ball and runs face-first into the crowd occupying the courtside seats, one begins to have an embodied metaphor for the violence done to the sporting subject by the sideline and its enclosure.

Music Note "All in all you're just another brick in the wall." — Pink Floyd Music Note