Proposition for an Exploded Foosball Table

Exploded Foosball - Photos Courtesy of Laura Cull and Pia Ednie-Brown

proposition for an exploded foosball table
department of biological flow
+ generating the impossible

july 2011

Process is transduced back from the open expanses of rural thought to the gridly confines of the city. The artists create a small football pitch within the space least populated by trees (though there were still several). Each player is connected to another by woven wicker fingercuffs. The ball is a gift to the community, processed, remixed and retransmitted. As if rupturing the heavy striations of the foosball table, the artists begin a game of fingercuff soccer.

It is probably best that the game is postponed from the rural camp space of openness to the more highly-coded space of the city, because both (modern) sport and the city exist primarily as expressions of rule sets which code the flow of bodies in motion. Neither team wears uniforms.

Rules

One of the interesting characteristics of this particular community of people is that each of its members to some degree challenge all rules. Every constraint given exists for them as a condition of possibility — if only it could be turned just so, or perhaps that way instead. For the most part, this is a community of experimentation always operating with/in linguistic rule systems insofar as they offer affordances of potential.

And yet in this quasi-sporting context (what Massumi would refer to as a proto-sport) we found it interesting that the impetus to challenge and invert was subdued in favour of more rigorously following cognate rule sets of familiarity — "am I allowed to do this?" A geography of Foucauldian docility (partially) slipped on like a soccer jersey. As the game began and the bodies started moving, however, this preoccupation with rules relaxed in favour of the more usual topology of experimentation.

Exploded Foosball - Photos Courtesy of Laura Cull and Pia Ednie-Brown

Gesture

The basic gesture of soccer is simple, both conceptually and in practice: kick the ball, usually toward the other goal. All other skills in the sport derive from this basic gesture (which you could then spend a lifetime learning to do well). Even so, kicking the ball is certainly not as simple as making contact with one's foot in the forward direction: the entire trunk of the body, arms and head coordinate to execute the kick, often at a vector just slightly offset from perpendicular. The body comes around the ball, so to speak, in order to kick it forward with more control.

Given the play of replicated or hybrid foosball bodies in the game, however, gesture simultaneously became a multiplicity as well as more constrained in a perpendicular sense. Put simply, with the fingercuffs on it was very difficult to kick in any way but straight forward with one's toe. Force channeled forward at all times, even if it was a bastardized "forward". Kicking with many legs is a skill that could certainly be improved by the stylish foosball player, but with experiments following so soon after being exploded it was the awkwardness of gesture (the stutter?) that proved most interesting.

Swarms followed the ball wherever it went on the pitch. The goal seemed important for everyone, some more than others. This community of artists, so soft in the rural setting of thought, collectively competed with aggression and abandon. There were aches and pains and even a minor injury.

(You know it was a Deleuzian soccer game when the only "minor" injury involved someone getting kicked in the "face" with a "part-subject" … har har …)

Exploded Foosball - Photos Courtesy of Laura Cull and Pia Ednie-Brown

Emergent conditions

As mentioned earlier, once the initial preoccupation with following the rules ceded to a more general competitive play and transduction of the field of potential, there were several interesting conditions of possibility which emerged. Some involved a collective notification of a new rule, while others a more subtle (or subterfuged?) renegotiation — each a particular outcome of style.

Examples of the former include scoring systems in which teams lost a point for scoring a goal or if a child was hurt during the course of play; the removal of shoes to make the game softer; and the requirement that goals scored must be below waist height. Examples of the latter include players who completely broke free from the fingercuff and played "solo" during the game; the modular interlocking of fingercuffs into clusters or three or four players; and pairings that played for both teams at the same time (switch?). There was even a performance of diving.

Finally, there was the programmed condition. The actual soccer ball was removed from the game, to be replaced by an imagined ball. The gestures of the players would dictate the position of the ball (always smudged) on the field of play. And the aggression of performance makes its final appearance as one team scores two goals in a matter of seconds to end the game in a tie.

Who had the more convincing actors?

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