Remixed Signals

On Performing the University of Disaster, Part Three

James Bond does not exercise. And frankly, if one was an image why bother? There is no sense in doing so, no sense in maintaining one's structures ossiferous and muscular, no sense in engaging the productive and sensual pleasures of the lipidinal and libidinal.

But this feels wrong. And so the Spy plans to write a brief to the Colonel.

He wants to file it "09-10-09: Mixed Signals from the Other."

Table Tennis

He wants to let the Colonel know that the University of Disaster does not have an athletic department. No rowing crew, no football team, no cheerleading squad. He wants to write that this is not to suggest an absence of physical culture, nor even sporting culture for that matter. There is swimming and hiking and running and cycling. There is sauna and yoga and chess. There is eating and drinking and dancing and sexing, each in portions of one, two or several. There is slacklining and hacky sack and table tennis and riding the craziest swingset in the world, poised on a precipice of nothingness in the cool sunshine of the Alpine mountains.

There is the artful inspiring of breath these mountains enable.

And then there are the toxins in the air. The contagions. The signifiers.

Mixed signals, indeed, but embodied nonetheless.

He wants to write about physical culture at the University of Disaster as that most Sisyphean quest for knowledge! Imagine oneself as both force and counterforce, a body-rock continually pushing and being pushed up a hill, beginning to breathe heavily, starting to perspire slightly, leaning into the grade of the slope, turning a sharp angle, deepening into a full pant, breaking into a full sweat, being mocked by the steep mountain backdrops … and all of sudden coming around a corner to lay eyes on one's colleagues and co-conspirators.

(deep breath…)

Before rolling back down once again.

He wants to write that there are even sports at the University of Disaster, a little basketball here or some futbol over there in the giardini. They appear to be gendered events, though perhaps tentatively approaching passage through those decrepit borders of normativity. At any rate, the altitude is punishing. And most amazingly (intelligence!), these student-athletes play without a referee, without a league, without cameras, without an archive, without representation or legitimation.

They compete!

EGS Futbal

He wants to seal the brief as classified intelligence with the caption Eyes Only.

But Agent 99 grasps his hand, gently.

suddenly, to know that you're there, you need an echo. …
you need an echo.

She teaches him that we have never been separate from our technologies: they have always been us from the beginning, or at least from the beginning of our language and logos. There is no antagonism to speak of between "man" and "machine", but only a humanity that continually generates itself through its techniques of living. This includes those things to which we give the label "machines", a relationality of both-and that frustrates any attempt at dialectical thought positing and perpetuating man versus machine or body versus tool.

In other words, she teaches him that the camera and the archive are part of his body. Revisioning versus. Eye knowing.

there was a young man who said
"though it seems that i know that i know,
what i would like to see
is the i that knows me
when i know that i know that i know."
(capsula, "i know that i know")

She teaches him that the "eye knows" and the "I knows" want to multiply, serially, as if a work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. And as each term is added to the preceding one the possibilities of the relational are changed as well, from a knowledge of self and being-in-the-world to an epistemology of the rational mind to an ontology of metaphysical Being. Aura, not to mention authority, fades like a satellite transmission choked off by high altitude and a strange crepuscular dawn.

But she also teaches him that once the "I knows" reach a certain threshold they cease to be additive and instead become recursive. Non-dialectical. There is a folding, an infinite telescoping of these I-knows into the You-know, of the self into the other, of the singular into the plural.

She calls this the flesh.

She teaches him that the body is insistent and relentlessly present at the University of Disaster because it offers its students and spies a different locus of knowing to complement the equally relentless drives for rational thought, inscription and the skin. This locus should not be mistaken as a singular corporeal punctum, however, since the flesh and its somatic way of knowing is more diffuse, unfettered by the skin, relational and multiple.

This is why the futbol athletes are able to play without referees, without representation or legitimation. Speaking in the voice of Avital Ronell, she teaches him that authority is stronger than force, that the authority of the futbal players emanates from the flesh and that this flesh is stronger than the remote gaze and force of the referee. The authority of this temporary futbal community is made possible by both a self-discipline of the body and a respect for relation. Or, speaking now for Agamben, a gesture.

She teaches him that embodiment-as-process is not a productive resource nor a standing reserve. It is rather a gift, and not one to be taken for granted. For at any moment a spasm in our singular-plurality can abscond with it, rob us of it — not in the sense of a numbing or as with the narcosis of Narcissus, but in the sense of being violently and perpetually detached from one's being-in-the-world and thus always in the process of catching up to one's flesh.

She teaches him that there can be intimacy and empathy through our techniques and technologies, both hardwire and softdata, for they spring forth from and return back to the flesh. There is always a distance between us in our touching, though, and so the intimacy and empathy will always be incomplete. The trauma will remain open-ended.

But she speaks for Ronell again and teaches him that trauma is what structures us. Not determines, but structures. She teaches him that the camera always stops rolling before Bond returns home to face his trauma.


Traumatized, structured, remixed, the Spy crumples his unfinished brief to the Colonel and burns it to ashes. He picks up his notebook instead, burdened by the high altitude and strange crepuscular dawn that is his flesh, and tries to scribble his thoughts in poetic verse. The ash on his fingers smudges the lined paper, as if grasping.

He leaves the camera rolling.

I tell all. Or do I?

No. The flesh never reveals all of its secrets.

* * *

(for dr. no and all the other egs villains recently convocated upon the world.)


4 responses to Remixed Signals

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    [...] "He wants to write about physical culture at the University of Disaster as that most Sisyphean quest for knowledge!" [...]

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