help side

help side
[help side defence,
or the tactile recalibration of peripheral vision,
or the hands of the clock at 13h50 -- just past high noon.]

 

left hand

"The faster we go, the more we look ahead in anticipation and lose our lateral vision."

(Paul Virilio, The Administration of Fear, p.36)

 

right hand

"Whiteness as blindness, as third type of blindness in which one sees with one's eyes open to the world, yet sees nothing. Not the absence of light and the consequent darkness that renders one incapable of seeing, nor the total intensification of light on the retinal receptors such that one is blinded by its sheer intensity and has a visceral reaction, which forces a closure of the eyes to get relief from the pain (as when looking at a sunny sky after being in a dark room). But a visible sightlessness that Antony Gormley helps us perceive, a third type of blindness in which one listens and touches, in which objects emerge from the white fog of chaos only at the penultimate moment of proximity."

(sportsbabel, june 2012)

 

a recursive game of prisoner's dilemma

The problem is not, as Bertrand Richard suggests in conversation with Paul Virilio, "that we still want even more speed and instantaneity." It is rather that we cannot afford to slow down, that we do not want to be left behind. The problem of speed thus becomes the inverse of the problem of exodus, except that we are describing an exodus from the hyperlinearity of time.

And as a question of praxis, we borrow from Paolo Virno to suggest a gradual move from a determined problem: keep pace or fall behind, to a totally different problem: how to realize the tempos available or at hand and to experience forms of self-expression that perhaps belie these temporal qualities and/or release differential energies.

abstract lines and butterfly kisses

knuckleball

"A knuckleball or knuckler is a baseball pitch thrown so as to minimize the spin of the ball in flight, causing an erratic, unpredictable motion. The lack of spin causes vortices over the stitched seams of the baseball during its trajectory, which in turn can cause the pitch to change direction – and even corkscrew – in mid-flight. This makes the pitch difficult for batters to hit, but also difficult for pitchers to control and catchers to catch; umpires are challenged as well, since following the path of the ball makes it difficult to call balls and strikes." (Wikipedia)

knuckleball

"Unlike a fastball, which conjures images of fire and smoke, the dipping, floating knuckleball compares to the flitting of a butterfly." (NY Times)

~

"The picture that emerges from the trajectory analysis is that a knuckleball trajectory is an example of a chaotic system. That is, small changes in the initial conditions (e.g., seam orientation, rotation rate, or rotation axis) give rise to large changes in the average lateral force on the baseball, resulting in approximately random movement." (Alan Nathan)

~

"Butterflies aren't bullets. You can't aim 'em — you just let 'em go." (Charlie Hough)

flight of the mecha butterflies

Imago

With its lilting and stuttering, consider the (mecha) butterfly as part of an aesthetico-political topology of movement through gesture and language — passing through the free radical, to the busker, the jester, and finally to Paolo Virno's joke, which effectively "changes topics" in conversation and may be considered a form of innovative action in surveillant/spectacular societies dominated by language. In this topological sense, not only are the "logico-linguistic" resources of jokes important (as with Virno), but also the movements of the jester or joker, the gestures and delivery that allow for the topical change to occur (as with the butterfly).

~

The butterfly is relatively ambivalent to the local striations of anthropocentric territories (city streets, lot plans, the domestic home), save for an interest in those affordances offered by other objects within these striated spaces (flower beds, vegetable gardens, shaded areas). For the butterfly, in this sense, space is always "smooth", or at least its particular attractions and connections are not mapped in gridly fashion: it lilts and stutters from stopping point to stopping point, a nomadic line avant la lettre, but perhaps even more illustrative to us perceptually-conceptually as it moves in its delicate awkwardness volumetrically, lifting the nomadic line off the canvas or the cave wall or the desert route for understanding in other dimensional spaces.

~

The jester, on the other hand, figures prominently in the medieval court. Offering "witty" counsel to the king or queen through jokes (and other forms of performance), the jester is that one who attempts to provoke a minor shift in perspectival viewpoints — from on high to down low. As the feudal court apparatus is transduced to the even more striated and biunivocal relations of the chess board, serfs and pawns get their due while the jester is left behind. But in tegwar chess, or the societies of control, the rules are modulating with every move. We find the perfect opportunity for the (re)introduction of the jester and performative jokery into the game — a powerful piece on the board so long as it does not seek to enlarge its own image or invest in the credit.

Electroshock Therapeutics

shock

Other nonhuman actors play no small role in manifesting the crowd-as-crowd — and by (intensive) extension, the expressive potential of the athletes on the basketball court. The public address announcer, cheerleaders, jumbotron, canned sound effects, in-house music: all of these purportedly exist to "enhance the game experience" for paying consumers.

But it might be more accurate to suggest that they serve to keep an otherwise distracted or exhausted audience in a state of electro-charged readiness for the potential of crowd-as-crowd to become in-formed and activated.

In many cases these are electrically-generated shocks of sound or light that serve to twitch the assembled flesh at regularly programmed intervals, though the gestures and gyrations of the team cheerleaders or mascots may accomplish similar goals in a more analog fashion. The point is less the modality and more the shocks themselves, which unfold as a steady stream of attack on the collective perception of these bodies assembled under the rubric of "spectator".

While they appear at a surface glance to be visual or auditory phenomena, their affective force is rather to be felt as a synaesthetic folding which locates itself in the haptic and proprioceptive. Blink, blink, twitch, twitch: think of a defibrillator that may kickstart smooth cardiac muscle into autonomous, yet directed, contractions — except absent the direct tactile connection of the medicalized jumper cables.

If the role of the in-stadium spectator is increasingly to bear resonant witness to the athletic virtuosity otherwise digitized as television signals for mediated distribution around the world, this electroshock readiness is paramount. Just as the crowd — even one relatively uninformed about the sport in question — can readily spot qualities such as particularly stylish performance or submaximal effort given, so too can the television audience spot a fake. Gestures are not enough. It is obvious to the TV spectator when the intensity of witness response flips from an aggregation of individual reactions to the "crowd" proper as independent and enthusiastic actor. The play-by-play commentary only confirms this in narrative form and completes the affective transfer to whatever potentials exist elsewhere via the telescreen.

The stadium spasms the assembled spectators, in other words, to optimize the readiness potential for the formation of crowd-as-crowd and witness-as-intensity. An electroshock therapeutics framed in terms of entertainment value and consumption, but which is more properly understood in terms of a fuzzy affective labour value and abstract production.

shockshock

It is in this readiness potential that consumption actually invests itself — this time as sponsorship capital. The relentless stream of attack on the perceptive faculties of witnessing serves first and foremost to coordinate the gaze toward advertising images, whether flat or volumetric. The intensive crowd knows nothing about corporate sponsors, but the extensive aggregate of more or less engaged spectators certainly may: programming meets readiness in this zone of indistinction between the two. If the crowd ends up forming, directing, contracting, then so much the better — but at least the ads will have been viewed during the twitchy interim. Exhaustion, indeed.

swerve

Impulsion

xxx

kleinian kisses need stitching
breathing, and leaking
at the seams

seems like only yesterday
you tore free
from me, in me
and me to be

xxx

come, rated as such and dated as much
blue breath whispers
sizzzling
time written flee

xxx

seems extreme
this veering theme

xxx

explosive dreams need sequencing
mines stuttering cuts and pasting
and stitching
ocular gauze
visibly

xxx

three stitches or less
by exxxtension
impulsive tears by the tens
in another frame of mine

images of thought lying tattered
knead breath, defibrilly

xxx

_____

(for all the gadflies and barflies.)

nonhuman actors and expression

Stadium Surfing

Idea for a Conceptual Art Project, No.22:

1. Take a sports stadium teeming with partisan fans.
2. Combine the pixelated card stunt with the spectator wave to create an 8-bit surfing avatar.
3. Ride that motherfucker 'round and 'round the stadium.
4. Synchronize wide-angle tracking shot.
5. Bail avatar headfirst into the wash.

 

A Short Note on Crowds and Expression

The "crowd" at a sporting event is not simply an aggregated number of individuals, nor a produced energy or volume, but a relationship to the capacity and architecture of a competition space proper (3,000 people watching a basketball game is a large number, for example, though one that loses significance in the context of an 18,000-seat sports arena). This relationship is precisely what constitutes the crowd as "crowd" — as an autonomous actor in its own right, singular yet plural, but also understood as an intensity. The plurality is this material aggregation in space of spectating bodies, while the "crowd"-as-singular is the singularity of a produced intensity as it waxes and wanes in the context of its architectural relation. That is, as an intensity the crowd may peak or subside but it may never be subdivided as such and still retain its internal coherency, as-crowd. Material space may be prefigured, but experiential space is co-generated.

Similarly, it is understood that there is some relationship between the energy of a crowd and the quality, sharpness and affective tone of the players on the court. This is not meant as a causal relationship of call-and-response between the two parties, but is rather to suggest mutual feedback loops between the "positive" or "negative" energies of a crowd, on the one hand, and the relative qualities of discipline and stylishness performed by the athletes at play, on the other. It is a mutually emerging field of experience we are describing, affective tensors played out in loosely-configured strategies of produced tension. A collective sporting individuation.

Have you ever tried playing an "important" game in an empty gym?

As we've already suggested, however, the crowd is also produced as an individuation in its relation to the arena architecture. If this is indeed the case then we must further note that the arena architecture plays a role in producing the gestural expression of the athletes at play. In other words, the nonhuman machine of the sporting arena — in a material sense — co-generates the expressive potential of those who perform.

Or, put differently again, this architectural object becomes subject-in-relation as its potential affects are to likewise produce an artificial becoming of athletic virtuosity. Those qualities of discipline and stylishness performed by the athletes at play may best reach their expressive peaks precisely because of their relationship to the material form of the sporting space proper.

(The question then becomes one of Virilian traject, or the tempo at which this arcing clinamen of individuating process plays itself out expressively, in contagio.)