"I hear it feels like you escape gravity."
So breathlessly whispers the awed female reporter to Dan Davis, the elite American sprinter and protagonist of "World Record," one of the animated short films featured in the Animatrix anthology. Davis is returning to top form after having been stripped of a previous world record race time and is poised to run in the finals of a major competition the following day. Though he faces a private battle of self-doubt concerning his comeback, Davis is all bravado and sexuality as he crosses the hotel lobby toward the elevator, reporter in tow.
"It's like nothing in this world."
Of course, Dan Davis, like everyone else in this cast of characters, lives in the Matrix, the Wachowski-inspired simulation of reality born of statistical method and synthetic perception. This alter-reality serves to keep docile an entire breed of domesticated humans that provide bioelectrical power to the machines that have supplanted Homo sapiens on the evolutionary ladder. As Paul Virilio notes, escape velocity on a world scale of bodies, or space colonization, has proven to be an empty dream. Empire thus turns inward to endocolonize its subjects, not the least through information technologies that interface with the human body. Dan Davis' performance at the stadium produces gravitational resonance with the others who run with him, as well as information that is then fed back into the simulation.
The narrator reminds us at the beginning of the film that only the most exceptional people, through intuition, sensitivity, and a questioning nature, become aware of the Matrix. Under certain circumstances, however, others may gain this insight as well. Our protagonist is hampered by an injured quadriceps muscle as he steps into the starting blocks for the finals, but Agents from the Matrix are on hand to monitor his performance. The gun fires and the runners blast from the blocks to accelerate down the track. With his huge elegant strides, Davis edges into the lead as the pack approaches the finish line. All of a sudden the muscle fibres of Davis' quadriceps are pushed to rupture; he nearly breaks stride. With time slowing down, Davis redoubles his determination and pushes through the pain screaming from a muscle responsible solely for speed-producing force contractions. The Agents are alerted to a possible security breach in the network; they attempt to capture him.
Suddenly time stops, or more precisely, folds in upon itself. The pain is unbearable, but for a split-second goes unnoticed. The floating numerical linguistics of time, space and athletic performance envelop his body, immanently, revealing themselves as part of the broader weave of mathematics and image that creates the simulation. He is beyond the grasp of the Agents. Dan Davis has become aware of the Matrix.
For the rest of us still stuck here, however, some questions are in order. Is it simply the pursuit of raw, unadulterated speed that makes one aware of the Matrix? After all, Davis had already broken the world record before, abetted by pharmaceuticals or not. Why hadn't he become aware already? Did he reach an objective switch point with his new world record time of 8.69 seconds, which propelled him into a different channel on the network or granted him passage beyond?
No. Dan Davis became aware of the Matrix when his moving athletic body reached a strategic nexus of speed, poiesis and pain.
(from the forthcoming essay "relational fibres and optics," to appear in a catalogue by artist amber scoon)