surfing, waves, forms

A person lying face-down on a long board paddles out over a series of waves to reach the break. Hard work, to be sure, but not surfing work. Though the surfer exists discursively on the beach and in fashion and in the pages of magazines and on highlight reels, as well as in the physical preparations for the surfing session proper, we are still primarily discussing the surfer in its potential. It isn't until the surfing body starts to catch a wave and stands up on the board that it emerges from the virtual into the actuality of surfing sensation. As I have mentioned before, the surfer turns potentiality into actuality by contouring the liminal edge between signal and noise, for the wave on which she expresses herself can only be considered the pure signal of the cresting swell in its becoming-noise.

urban gait surfing waveforms, viewed in audacity

We move inland to the city. Instead of a completely liquid ocean we find (social) matter existing in various states (solid, liquid, gas) and in processes of relation between states (melting, solidification, vaporization, condensation, deposition and sublimation). Perhaps we can say that complexity increases in the city, but the aesthetics of the surfer continue to adapt and thrive?

At least, that is what the gait surfer hopes to explore: the aesthetics of the surfer, adapted to the politics of the city. Dérive and thrive, only if the visual dominated and sound wasn't such an important consideration.

But sound is important. It is part of the built environment, emerging organically from the technical apparatus of the city, or technically from our organic processes existing within its folds and dynamism. As Lotringer, Kraus and El Kholti point out in the foreword to Baudrillard's In the Shadow of Silent Majorities, "Félix Guattari may have answered that it is no longer necessary to maintain a distinction between material and semiotic deterritorializations and that there is no more absolute primacy of one system over another." That is, the semiosis of sound and its recordings is part of an architectural form, and the deterritorialization of the body as it relates to this architecture is something that demands consideration.

The graphic above shows the waveforms for the six songs on the playlist of the first urban gait surfing study, the micro-architecture of the shared acoustic space within the public/private space of the surf. Notice the difference in each song's individual shape. What lies outside that shape? What lies on the edge, the threshold?

urban gait surfing waveforms, viewed in audacity

This is the same playlist zoomed into 1.3 seconds of detail. Notice how the shapes change, expand, offer a different threshold of potential.

Gait surfing can be considered an attempt to refashion psychogeography at the scale of nanosociability. An engagement of the vibrations and resonances with other bodies, experienced by walking in what we consider the liminal space between public and private. While the spatial field of gait surfing experience is much smaller at any given moment and thus is more intensely bodily, it is also temporally far more dynamic with each step and thus requires a more precise calibration or attunement to affect in order to be detected.

Reframe the question. How do we as sensing subjects respond at the level of nano-aesthetics? Ideally, and borrowing from Iain Borden, can we call gait surfing a performative critique of the sound architecture?

Only in part. There are multiple simultaneous critiques at play, most notably those of the sound architecture and the pedestrian flux. It is at the moments of greatest resonance or accord between these two critiques that we approach the surfer's eternal quest for the perfect wave.


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  1. sportsBabel » three-eighths says:

    [...] act of boring a hole in the material (or immaterial?) substrate both withdraws matter-flow from the hole in a reverse spiral fashion, as well as pushes [...]