time, biorhythms, socius

Timetable - HomeShop

Starting with a grid and a timeline, a certain series of Events align themselves on a planar network. These Events have been a topic of discussion for quite some time now, and in the downward ticking of imminent certainty, it becomes calm again; preparatory activities come to a close, exteriors are hastily shined and construction sites moved to interiors, or we ourselves have left the premises, fearing the heated Spectacle to come. Yet despite the structure of the grid and the timetable and the past years of meticulous planning (they have replaced and re-installed new litter bins on our street twice since the winter), there is still something a little more than abstract about these Eights, and that little something rests, for most of us, on the issue of accessibility. Are you going to the Olympics? And to turn the question around, whether or not we are granted access, what has the imposition of the Games taken from us?

(from the call for participation text, homeshop series number one: games 2008)

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The earliest call for participation and proposal text for the HomeShop project made explicit through word and image the desire to juxtapose the formal timetables of the Olympic Games with the more rhythmic sense of time and indeterminacy found in Xiaojingchang Hutong, and in that modest attempt lies quite a significant interrogation of power.

It is one thing to suggest that television has substantial implications for the collective biopower of the athletes, but quite another when one considers the sheer number of broadcasters involved in the worldwide transmission of the Olympic Games and how this magnifies the problem. NBC, the American host broadcaster, paid such an exorbitant sum for the domestic rights to show the Games that it had the bargaining power to demand certain events in Beijing conform to broadcast timetables in the United States. Swimming was of such importance to the American viewing public — particularly since Michael Phelps would be questing for eight gold medals — that NBC demanded the swimming finals be held first thing in the morning Beijing time so that they would be available live to a U.S. prime-time audience. This has substantial implications for the biorhythms of elite swimmers, who normally swim final events in the evening.

It is AC Nielsen, whose screenal day runs from 06:00 to 29:59 EST, that controls the regime of contemporary sporting biopolitics!

No lap around the sun, this, but rather a crepuscular dawn.

On the other hand, we have the very local rhythms of Xiaojingchang Hutong. Not only was the timetable of HomeShop very loosely arranged and articulated, with Beijing-based artists and local community residents arriving for formal events or dropping by to informally chat, but the biorhythms of the interpersonal were also more presently at the fore. This may have been manifest in any number of ways: through the weather, the heat, the sharing of water or suan mei tang (traditional Chinese plum juice); through the lighting of cigarettes for another or the musical stylings of DJ Mellow Yellow; through the staccato hesitations of translation between Chinese and English or the frustrated haltings in absence of such translation.

All part of a flow — not the regulated flow of the Olympic timetable and its conduits of tourist passage, public transit and commercial exchange, but the micro-flow of the neighbourhood, those swirling eddies in the liminal space where public and private bleed into one another, and whose non-linear dynamics create the potential for threshold events to occur (cf. DeLanda).

I mention this because the indeterminacies fostered by HomeShop and its local sense of time created quite a wonderful outcome as it related to the Loser's Party and the wii would like to play // we don't have tickets event. Quite unintentionally, we competed with the wii videogame version of the 100-metre dash to see who could be the most average competitor at the very same time that Usain Bolt ran the fastest 100-metre sprint in human history. This would be sacrilege to the political economy of speed, if only we didn't know it would happen again in four years' time!

And here, the local "timetable" created the athletic biorhythms from which a socius emerged.

(a work-in-process between elaine w. ho and sean smith towards "17 days in beijing: screen of consciousness on the micropolitical," a text for public issue 40)

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