Cresting Signal and Noise

"Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports," says Gilles Deleuze, perhaps the philosopher most concerned with the question of bodies and flow. The surfing, flowing body finds its rhythm in a whole continuum of matter-states, from the gaseous waves of the hang-glider or skydiver to the concrete waves carved by the street skater, to the frozen in-between waves of aqua and terra shredded on the slopes by the snowboarder.

But we must remember that surfing has its origins in the smooth space of the ocean, with only the logic of the tide and the deep swell accompanying a hybrid of body and board on its path of creative potential towards the beach. From the very beginning then, despite its forays into other matter-states, the surfing body has always been a liquid body.

Today we are all becoming surfers — surfers of waves, surfers of electromagnetic transmissions, surfers of relational databases and other networked information-constructs. One need not have a board to be a surfing body. But one does need a body. The question today has become one of embodiment. Does the body sense? Does the body move or create?

Is the body liquid?

The surfer is equally comfortable navigating between signal and noise. Slight murmurs and adjustments made by the finely attuned body maintains an optimal position while riding the liminal edge between the two. For the waves that surfers call home are nothing if not the pure signal of the cresting swell in its becoming-noise, before crashing to shore at the feet of the masses lying recumbent on the sand: aqua meets terra where the noisy wave hits the beach.

The relationship between the two becomes more distant when moved to the urban context, though there is still a connection in noise. Today, aqua and terra are the noise to the constantly throbbing signal of dwelling and commerce. The tree, the pond, the park, the rain: all are noise to the decaying spaces and shiny interfaces of the contemporary city, connected in signal through the boulevards and underground conduits of the city, as well as the fluxes of people navigating the urban everyday. Though they, too, will eventually become part of the total communications infrastructure, for now they remain the playground of the surfer.

This urban playground, however, remains largely unused. For too long our sport has resembled the factory production model and for too long our surfing has been that of the data-net sort. Sport can be the anti-work, but only insofar as one is embodied and creative, or as one is a playmaker.

Interestingly, Deleuze describes the runner as the sporting figure obsolesced by the emergence of the contemporary surfer. We should not be surprised by his diagnosis, since the sprinter and marathoner seem increasingly to be products of the industrial laboratory, while the surfing body remains largely unchanged, except for the growing variety of energetic systems in which it realizes its potential. But obsolescence is not an entirely accurate diagnosis, however, for the dynamism of the surfer has folded back upon the runner, as we see embodied in the parkour athlete who contours and traces the asphault, concrete, bricks and mortar of the urban cityscape. In other words, a body can change.

Traditionally, the playmaker has been the figure in sports who makes plays, that is, who manufactures positive outcomes in the clutch, who embodies drill, discipline, execution and repetition. But everywhere surfing has replaced the older sports. Instead of making plays, one must now embrace the challenge of making play, rescuing it from the seriousness of industrial manufacture and the factory production model. To make plays, one blocks out the noise of the crowd and visualizes the task at hand. To make play, by contrast, one embraces and engages the noise of the crowd, sensing one's self in space as an affective body, athletic and full of creative potential.

Make play. Surf. This constitutes the tactile burden of all playmakers, regardless of their material habitat: to feel the heaviness of the body at the same moment one feels the lightness of its liquidity. To move, perform, create, liberate.

Comments

2 responses to Cresting Signal and Noise

- rss feed for this comment thread
  1. sportsbabel says:

    Somatic Flux, Tactile Burden

    The contemporary city: a site of decaying spaces and shiny interfaces. A meshwork of subjectivities accelerating faster than the ability of our own embodiment to keep up. The question today has become one of embodiment. Does the body sense? Does the body move or create?

    Is the body liquid?

    Swimming pool. Pond at the local park. Damp mist that turns to shower that turns to driving downpour. Gutters, storm drains, and underground conduits of wastewater. Evaporating sweat from the back of the road construction worker, the broker in the trading pit, or the athlete at the stadium. Aqua may be found all over the city, flows coursing independently yet bound up with one another as well as with larger processes in patterns binary, circular, and linear.

    Green grass at the park. Humming streets. Golf course turf. Designer architecture. Chipped concrete curbs and asphault blacktop. Abandoned lots. Thatch and decomposing undergrowth. What aqua gives (life), it also takes away (decay). Speed makes us forget sometimes that the solidity of terra is itself bound up in liquid processes, which perhaps just take a little longer to witness visually.

    Aqua has a diversified rapport with terra in the folds of the contemporary city, sometimes as signal and other times as noise to the constantly throbbing rhythms of dwelling and commerce. The tree, the pond, the park, the rain: all connected by fluxes of people navigating, tracing and inscribing the urban everyday. Always flowing. Never trapped, enclosed, solid.

    Is the body liquid?

    Traditionally, the playmaker has been the figure in sports who makes plays, that is, who manufactures positive outcomes in the clutch, who embodies drill, discipline, execution and repetition. But everywhere surfing has replaced the older sports suggests Gilles Deleuze, perhaps the philosopher most concerned with the question of bodies and flow. In other words, the athletic body today is one enters into an existing energy system and creates possibility, as we see embodied in the street skateboarder, the snowboarder, or the parkour athlete who contours and traces the asphault, concrete, bricks and mortar of the urban cityscape.

    Interestingly, Deleuze describes the runner as the figure obsolesced with the emergence of this new sporting logic. We should not be surprised by his diagnosis, since the sprinter and marathoner seem increasingly to be products of the industrial laboratory, standing markedly in contrast to the flowing body and the growing variety of energetic systems in which it realizes its potential. But we need not be describing this figure in terms of obsolescence: fold this new sporting dynamism back upon the runner and ride the flows of pedestrian traffic through the streets, concourses and plazas. For it is the human body, in both singular and plural form, that connects together the various flows of aqua and terra in the contemporary city.

    Instead of making plays, one must now embrace the challenge of making play, rescuing it from the seriousness of industrial manufacture and the factory production model. To make plays, one blocks out the noise of the crowd and visualizes the task at hand. To make play, by contrast, one embraces and engages the noise of the crowd, sensing one's self in space as an affective body, athletic and full of creative potential.

    Find the points of intersection between binary, circular and linear forms. Ride the interference waves in the oscillation between signal and noise. Make play. Flow. This constitutes the tactile burden of all playmakers, regardless of their material habitat: to feel the heaviness of the body at the same moment one feels the lightness of its liquidity. To move, perform, create, liberate.

    Is the body liquid?

  2. sportsBabel » Refragmentation. Hard. Drive. says:

    [...] the crevices of her mouth as if savouring each word. "And when it does, it always seems to create beautiful new possibilities." Date: December 29, 02008Feedback: 0 comments | Permalink: url [...]