Liminal Aesthetics

Liminal Aesthetics and the Adjudication of the Sporting Body

(submitted by sean smith to the 2009 sport & technology: philosophical dimensions conference at langara college)

Visioning technologies are becoming an increasingly important part of the administrative and judicial apparatuses of sport as, for example, with the photo finish or instant replay. Indeed, as sports are contested at ever-higher speeds it can be difficult to authoritatively determine outcomes with any degree of precision in the absence of such visioning. These technologies have traditionally operated by reducing the volumetric to the planar; that is, by using the camera to represent three-dimensional live action in the two-dimensional form of photo or video, which then forms an archive that can be viewed at a later time. But a new class of visioning technologies is emerging that integrates multiple synchronized camera shots into a visually consistent whole to re-create the three-dimensional within a computer database. This is accomplished via the technique of interpolation, in which the data points of video frames are combined to create new data points in between. These new in-between data points have a curious relationship to the real events of athletic competition, however: though they were created from representations of the real and could not exist without them, they themselves never actually occurred. Can these new visioning technologies and their emergent data points provide an ethical basis for the administration and adjudication of the most critical elements of sporting performance?

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5 responses to Liminal Aesthetics

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  1. Ted says:

    We seem to have an urge to alter, to shift, to somehow do anything BUT leave well enough alone. I've heard anthropologists say we are builders…but maybe what we really are are tweakers. How does the need to, as you put it, create these visual images of events that are not there in the way the image displays them relate to things like Zen and the "be in the moment" thing? Maybe there is no moment to be in, or no authentic self to be in one particular moment. I'm not just playing wordgames, either. These are two issues, I know…the need to tweak and otherwise alter our reality/ies and the being-in-the-world versus the multiple-representation-in-the-digitized-world. Great stuff in this post!

  2. sportsbabel says:

    Ted, it's interesting that you approach the religious-philosophical here, as I also see it in somewhat related terms — the Nietzschean "death of God" as we attempt to replace Him with techno-science. For me, the affect of being-in-the-world is important in this regard, and why I am more and more interested in the work of Deleuze, Guattari and Massumi.

  3. Isa says:

    These imaging technologies have the power to give us a more heightened experience of the spectacle of sport and enhances our power of spectatorship…the being-there of sports is important to testify that the competition is truly an accomplishment of the prowess of the body against time and space, but today, this transcendence is no longer the main attraction. We want to live and relive the 'moment' as much as we like - the 360 degree imaging technologies offer the possibility of participation in the spectacle of sport within a new 'scopic regime' as Martin Jay would say (see Martin Jay's "Scopic Regimes of Modernity" in Vision and Visuality ed. Hal Foster).

    Sport visualization (i can hardly call it 'filming' or 'photography' anymore) has always been the trigger to many breakthroughs in imaging technologies - Riefenstahl's Olympia and Triumph of the Will come to mind as the first and most enduring way of depicting sports with a camera. Ironically, she set the standard for sports photography and filming and much of it is still used today and her vision is inculcated in a vision of sport and the 'sublime'.

    But in today's participatory scopic regime, it is up to the spectator/viewer/interactor to play with a set of given data…the whole idea of making it more immersive, or more volumetric and less planar as you say, therefore more topological (ah, here is the mobius strip surfacing again) is a characteristic of future immersion technologies….that the computer programme will "fill in" those frames that have never really occurred in order to reach a hyperrealistic rendering of the action is meant to be 'invisible'. Baudrillard's simulacra take over. Wait - that is so 90s. Perhaps we are in an age, as Hal Foster would say, of a "Return of the Real", but maybe that too is being surpassed, or is it?

    "After the models of art-as-text in the 1970s and art-as-simulacrum in the 1980s; Foster suggests that we are now witness to a return to the real—to art and theory grounded in the materiality of actual bodies and social sites: If The Return of the Real begins with a new narrative of the historical avant-garde; it concludes with an original reading of this contemporary situation—and what it portends for future practices of art and theory, culture and politics…."

    In any case, relationally speaking - to use a more current term - this post strangely reminded me of a scene in Aronofsky's The Wrestler, where The Ram is showing his Nintendo game to a kid. Can you imagine us showing the technology mentioned above to future generations? They'll snuff it off too.

  4. sportsbabel says:

    Hey Is, found a copy of Scopic Regimes of Modernity….thanks!

    I'm still working through it, but wanted to point out that, in sports at least, there is a sort of folding back that takes place as the videogame begins to supersede television as the medium of choice. At first sports videogames wanted to be just like television, and tried to emulate in that regard. Then they began to flex their own muscles and realize what they could do in their own right, such as create a camera perspective anywhere because it is a mathematically-generated non-space. All of a sudden, television is trying to develop all sorts of techniques to create a videogame-style experience in television, such as the 360-degree replays as above, or the Cablecam, or others.

    I don't call this the Return of the Real, that's for sure.

  5. sportsBabel » Pixel to Pellicule says:

    [...] second problem of the Wave as gestural politics: the relationship between surfaces and volumes (a corporeal lacuna that haunts the thought of Flusser). While the Wave is today indeed an affair often deliberately [...]