Permutations and Constellations

Football: the world's most represented sport. Allow us for a moment to misrepresent, to follow a few ruptures suggested by those individuals who understand representation in a different light: the artists.

Rupture: Layer
In Deep Play Harun Farocki makes explicit the political and economic forces governing world class football. Put differently, there is a process of unlayering that reveals hidden layers that inscribe a purportedly free-flowing, improvisational football match and presents them as an unlayering of sorts. The layer of play is continually in dynamic form. Farocki's gesture is to split or tear the flow of athletic bodies into the various mappings and tracings that condition its emergence.

Courtesy of Harun Farocki

harun farocki
deep play
2007
installation view

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Rupture: Space
In Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno effect an approximate synchronization by having multiple cameras all track the same figure — Zidane — throughout the course of the match. Rather than following the ball as the true catalysis of play, as per usual on television, the cinematic experience tears this spatial privilege by focusing instead on Zidane. With sports television we have a contemporary transformation of cubofuturism — at least for the production director, who reduces the multiple surrounding perspectives and times to the flat linear narrative of the screen view. As we move to Gordon and Parreno's cinematic version this cubofuturism has been even more slowly considered to give us this portrait from the 21st century — a study of darting eyes and curved lines of approach, stillnesses bursting into intense flights of effort, economies of movement that must baffle an optical tracking systems approach as with that shown by Farocki.

Courtesy of Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno

douglas gordon and philippe parreno
zidane: a 21st century portrait
2006
still from video

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But we know these two works well, shiny objects in the Sport constellation of the art market. Allow us instead to triangulate between these two stars to approximate the position of a third . . .

Rupture: Time
In Accumulated Football, the Brazilian/Swedish artist Isabel Löfgren composes a football field by sampling and overlaying screenshots of television frames at regular 30-second intervals, a uniform, rhythmic gesture that opens up a plenitude of diversity within its program. In so doing, she makes explicit the forgotten fact of televised football: for the viewer at home the pitch is not 100-130 yards in length by 50-100 yards in width, as mandated by the world governing body FIFA, but rather exists in luminescent resolution at a standardized 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio. The field of view is always a cropped version of the live action, whose precise representational dimensions depend on a calculus between maximizing the number of players on the pitch at once and showing each athlete in as much visual detail as possible. It is always a framed subset of the genuine article — flattened, dulled — that is constituted as the visible for the gaze and touch of remote consumers.

Courtesy of Isabel Lofgren

isabel löfgren
accumulated football (detail)
2011
photographic print
225 x 45 cm

Modern television production sidesteps this calculus somewhat by adding camera perspectives to the mix, cutting back and forth between various angles and focal resolutions — such as the approach described earlier with the Zidane film. But Löfgren sticks resolutely with the main wide-angle shot, for her interest is less concerned with space than with time. She extracts time from the moving television image to (re)constitute the match anew as a still photograph: layering, transparency and saturation are presented as strategies for compressing and composing time.

Courtesy of Isabel Lofgren

isabel löfgren
accumulated football (detail)

As such, the field becomes populated by uniformed spectres that dart along different movement vectors, blurring into betweenness and foregrounding frame rate — apparitions of the multiple body as it moves within time. None of these bodies are necessarily true or false but rather exist in ternary logic: perhaps yes or perhaps no. They suggest alternative retrospective codings to those revealed by Farocki in Deep Play.

And not surprisingly, this compression of time effects a corresponding perceptual dilation of space in turn: the football field simply feels longer than usual, as if "breaking out" or reaching beyond the horizontal boundaries of the television frame has stretched our normal understanding of matter(s). To flip the relation, Accumulated Football perhaps offers a cogent reminder of precisely the box in which we somatically exist, static in both senses of the televised word.

A Goal?

Goal

David Graeber, 'The New Anarchists,' New Left Review, 13, p.64:

"More and more, activists have been trying to draw attention to the fact that the neoliberal vision of 'globalization' is pretty much limited to the movement of capital and commodities, and actually increases barriers against the free flow of people, information and ideas."

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Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, p.72:

"So what is the condition? Quite simply, a field. No field, no play, and the rules lose their power. The field is what is common to the proto-game and the formalized game, as well as to informal versions of the game coexisting with the official game and any subsequent evolution of it. The field-condition that is common to every variation is unformalized but not unorganized. It is minimally organized as a polarization. The field is polarized by two attractors: the goals. All movement in the game will take place between the poles and will tend toward one or the other. They are physical limits. The play stops when the ball misses or hits the goal. The goals do not exist for the play except tendentially, as inducers of directional movement of which they mark the outside limits (winning or losing). The goals polarize the space between them. The field of play is an in-between of charged movement. It is more fundamentally a field of potential than a substantial thing, or object. As things, the goals are signs for the polar attraction that is the motor of the game. They function to induce the play. The literal field, the ground with grass stretching between the goals, is also an inductive limit-sign rather than a ground in any foundational sense. The play in itself is groundless and limitless, taking place above the ground-limit and between the goal-limits."

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As we have noted here on several occasions, modern sport both contributes to and creates new forms for the project of enclosure, which complements those hierarchical bulwarks of state and corporation — as popular discourse, athletic labour force and spectacular commodity. Think shifts in the geography of the arena proper, jersey numbers on uniforms, radio frequency chip tagging, anti-doping protocols, omniocular camera tracking systems, and many others.

Even with a game as simple as football/soccer/fútbol, Massumi points out, this begins with the goal. The goal catalyzes a field of play, yes, potentializes those bodies that move about within its space, yes, but is also a point of finitude: there is no after the goal. Rather, we are confronted with disappearance into a void, spatiotemporal coordinates becoming mathematical integer, one metric exchanged for another, goal becoming goooooooaaaaaaaaaaal.

What if the goal was not simply a foreclosure of athletic poiesis, a terminal point of the enclosure whence one escapes only to be thrust back inside? What if the goal was an opening onto something, somewhere, sometime, a portal to thinking and becoming, a worlding?

What lies beyond finitude?

wakawakawaka

wakawaka

it's an odd relationality that constitutes this place we call time.
a memory, or fading inscription . . .

sexualization, where only sexual overproduction and heteronormativity hold sway.

from a hip synchronization of gesture emanating at the world cup in africa, to its remainder, which circulates across continents as the diasporal memetic flows of leisure tourism, a contagion in those sites of spectacular consumption, confinement and hygiene. a young teenage girl more or less mimics the hips of the slightly older latina woman leading the dance and glimpses what a body can do.

all for a football tournament, that motor of integrated world capitalism.

FoolBand (or a Note on Metabolic Vehicles)

FoolBand

Wired Playbook:

Nike’s got a new gadget that tracks all that exertion and motivates you to get more active by turning your workout, and everyday activities, into a game with a reward called NikeFuel.

FuelBand is a wristband that records data collected by an accelerometer. It tracks calories expended, steps taken and the time of day as well as your NikeFuel score and presents it on an LED display. Your score is based on an algorithm that assigns points to various movements. The more active you are, the more NikeFuel you earn. You can earn it doing just about anything, track your progress with your iPhone or iPad and eventually share it with others via social media platforms.

“[FuelBand] is a common measurement across a wide spectrum of activity,” says Trevor Edwards, a Nike VP.

. . .

Activities are measured the same way for everyone, regardless of how many calories are burned, says Glen Gaesser, an exercise and wellness professor at Arizona State University who worked with Nike to develop FuelBand. He says 30 college-aged men and women performed various everyday movements in his lab. Each activity took eight minutes, followed by a brief rest, during a 90-minute workout. Participants wore a FuelBand along with a portable metabolic measurement system that tracked their oxygen uptake breath-by-breath. Nike engineers used the data to develop the proprietary algorithms that track accelerometer data accompanying each uptake of oxygen. That forged a relationship between physical movements and oxygen data in which each activity has a recognized accelerometry pattern.

Unlike calories, which vary depending upon gender and weight, NikeFuel holds a common score for each type of activity. Algorithms for some movements aren’t always 100 percent accurate, but Gaesser says it shouldn’t affect the FuelBand’s overall effectiveness.

 

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Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, p.94:

"The invader's performance resembles that of his athletic counterpart, of those olympic champions whose records first progressed by hours, then by minutes, then by seconds, then by fractions of seconds. The better they performed (the more rapid they became), the more pitiful were the advances they obtained, until they could only be noticed electronically. One day the champion will disappear in the limits of his own record, as is already suggested by the biological manipulation of which he is the object, and which resembles the methods of artificial medical survival granted the terminally ill. For the dromomaniac the engine is also a prosthesis of survival. It is remarkable that the first automobiles, Joseph Cugnot's military trolley of 1771, for example, were steam-powered, already situating themselves at the limit of the animal body's metempsychosis, relay of historical evolution: the limit of the passage from the metabolic vehicle to the technological vehicle, spilling its smoke like a last breath, a final symbolic manifestation of the motor-power of living bodies."

 

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Only the situation has folded in upon itself: as the champion disappears into the limits of his own record, so too does an entire economy of record-production begin to show the cracks of its own implosion. Similarly, the economy of athletic celebrity proves to be straining at the boundaries of sustainability, and the fuel that bursts these stars into the sky only to therein be captured as sources of nuclear-interactive potential is no longer sufficient as an energetic solution for the demands of cognitive capitalism and its tyranny of exhaustion (cf. Bifo).

Sole. Soul. Solar. Virilio demands an ecological approach that fully understands technological culture and not simply its biological substratum. But Nike is already there, shifting from celebrity plutonium to a more diversified and distributed energetic approach in which score resumes its superiority over image, the cellular Everyman with his FuelBand still miles away from pitiful athletic advances and thus ripe for athletic endcolonialism writ softly as ambient informatics and performance exchange rates.

Sold: the situation has folded in upon itself, fuel is produced after the fact, and the metabolic vehicle driving around in fresh Nikes is not quite dead either, exhausted though it may be.

Three Simulations

Logistics of Perception

(a dreamyface skin-film extravitanza)

Players and coaching staffs are getting ready for the big football game. With two weeks to prepare for their opponents, each team performs various breakdown drills to hone skill execution, but also diagrams and walks through the playbook of the other team — on both offense and defense. These walk-throughs are then sped up to more closely approximate game conditions: if Team X shows they plan to do this, then we plan to do that. All visual intelligence is gleaned from a central repository of film accumulated and distributed centrally by the league office. Call it Foucauldian simulation: a surveillant, disciplinary regime put into practice as a microphysics of the athletic body and a composition of relatively interchangeable forces called the team.

Coaching staffs are getting ready for the big football game. These are hierarchical regimes, with a head coach at the pinnacle of offensive and defensive coordinators, positional coaches, video assistants, et cetera. Information must flow through this hierarchy to make decisions during the heat of the game that will be relayed via headset to the key offensive and defensive players on the field (usually the quarterback and linebacker), but it does not reside solely in the expertise of the pinnacle figure. Some of this information is gleaned from layered database archives of video, searchable by situation and tendency: if it is third down and short yardage (0-3 yards), Team X runs this play 62% of the time. No longer is the image simply an image, but rather an image+text complex, with metadata blurring any singular punctum into a constellation of queried abstractions. Call it Baudrillardian simulation: a statistical reportage of prior dividuated tactics, put into practice contextually as a feedforward loop that contextually optimizes and (re)produces the newly emerging.

The host television network is getting ready for the big football game. Since this event is the epitome of sporting spectacle, every possible effort must be made to anticipate precisely how the game will unfold, so as to best present a telesthesic experience for those watching the broadcast from home. A high school team is taught the plays of both teams and brought to the super stadium for mock game action (the TV network, too, has done its video homework). Producers are better able to determine camera angles for specific and possible situations: if Team X runs an out pattern to the sideline, cameras 4, 6 and 12 will have it covered. The question here is one of exposure: not only does the TV viewer at home receive the benefit of assuming multiple perspectives of the game (vis-a-vis the spectator at the stadium who only receives one), but the truth of the game proper will almost certainly at some point lie in the instant replay footage provided by the broadcaster. Call it Virilian simulation: an arrangement of the logistics of perception, put into practice as strategies for organizing the visualization of space at accelerated speeds, both for spectacle and as "nonpartisan" justice.

Each helps to understand Deleuzian control societies, particularly within topologies of temporary enclosure.