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).

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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.

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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.

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.)

zed's dead, baby.

blood blister

(the following is based on a true story)

 

"The gestural body is a moving body, and is thus always already a political one as well. The logic of skin tectonics suggests that such a moving body will never be fully captured by the tightness of its spectacular skin, for there will always be a slippage between integumentary layers. And it is this slippage that constitutes the contemporary zone of opportunity, of resistance, and of indifference."

(sportsbabel, february 2010)

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"Not so much pregnancy as an affirmative autonomy, then, but a soapy, bloody bubble given breath-between-two, before being blown back inward upon itself and coming out whole — propelled right back down into the throat of the blower, suffocating speech-potential ever so perceptibly as the newly-dawning subject is in-formed."

(sportsbabel, june 2012)

 

dyed red, burned bubbbling

It is damp, and a long march is about to begin. It has been thought about, planned and strategized for quite some time, the body has been prepared, and an imagined or dreamed conviction has set in resolutely — this can be accomplished.

Are we describing here the marathon runner who has trained and tapered and sweated all season, resolutely, or the political subject in emergence who seems to be stretching limbs and tensors one final time before the report of the starter's pistol shatters the intense edginess that hangs over the assembled hordes?

A skin tectonics is a slippage of sorts. Many sorts, many skins. Many potential frictions, shears, tears, bubbles and ruptures. The marathon runner teaches us that once the race begins not all variables can be controlled: sometimes the tectonic shifts have a logic of their own that may in-form identity on the fly. Bloody bubbles may form that challenge any prior idea of a quantified outcome to the process.

But the marathon runner may also teach us that these goals are not end-points but rather imagined inflections within process. Pain affectively calculates pain, just as pain remembers pain. We are newly informed through our in-formation, imprecisely. As such, this can be accomplished may take on a new meaning, maybe a very dramatic and affirmative new meaning that cannot be measured against the clock of the foot of the eye. Nor are intensities ever perceived in this way to begin with.

Bloody, potentially, the pain is embraced and the journey is completed — buoyed by the energetics of countless others. Somehow outside of historical time. This is the real story that will be told around campfires for years to come. And it's a true story.

In turn, perhaps the emerging political subject teaches us that these painful bubbles can be considered more deliberately — as possibilities to condition the spatiotemporal and numerical regimes of the contemporary moment. Perhaps this is the story that will be told someday.

But the questions remain: Whose goal are we considering? Whose body, distributed yet locatable? Whose pain?

a 21st century portrait

a 21st century portrait

politics in a time of obsolesced war

NFL Ref Mixed Signal

"So why is the disappearance of the fullback significant, then? The American military-industrial complex is at its core a technological apparatus. As such, we have seen its military superiority derived from its scientific innovation, rather than from any inherent superiority in its trained personnel. This innovation, as integral as it has been to American society, should appear in the model of gridiron football. Put another way, if the football-war metaphor is to hold true, it is because the NFL depends more on fighter jets than on ground infantrymen. The disappearance of the fullback in favour of more passing threats suggests that this is in fact the case." (sportsbabel, Oct. 2003)

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"There's a reason ESPN's 90-minute SportsCenter that followed Monday Night Football did an astonishing 4.5 rating (the highest SportsCenter rating in 17 years, by the way) . . ." (Bill Simmons, Sept. 2012)

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"We'll get the real officials back thanks to the gravitational pull of the money bet on U.S. football. Because the most lucrative random numbers generator on Earth, the NFL, needs every game to be played on the square. Even the appearance of a fix could send the planet wobbling into the sun. And given sufficient incompetence, the appearance of a fix was inevitable. That's what happened Monday night in Seattle. This wasn't about integrity or love of the game or player safety or the fans or even the quality of the product on the field. This was about a game so poorly officiated by scabs that sportsbooks were refunding money—because an NFL game looked crooked." (Jeff MacGregor, Sept. 2012)

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"The farce is that the NFL owners are so isolated that they can’t see that everyone wants the union refs back, even the Governor whose political fortunes are underwritten by right-wing, anti-labor billionaires: Wisconsin's Scott Walker. Yes, that Scott Walker. The same governor who waged war on union teachers and firefighters without care for the social costs, wants his union refs back. Late last night, the Green Bay Packers fan tweeted, 'After catching a few hours of sleep, the #Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs.' The gall of Scott Walker possesses the power of a tsunami." (Dave Zirin, Sept. 2012)

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"In the model of contemporary gridiron football, we retrieve the stadium games of Ancient Rome as well as the feudal-political model of chess, albeit both in modified form. While the stadium games of Ancient Rome often were re-creations of land and sea battles significant to the history of the Roman Empire, modern football, by contrast, is entirely in simulation: every play in every game models or describes a battle that has yet to take place — right down to the level of simulated death. The articulation of these battles is extremely accelerated, as if played in fast forward. Though an entire game of chess is based upon just one battle — a mobilization of Church, nobility and serfdom to protect the King — a football game models a battle on every play from scrimmage, with the sum of these battles allowing a team to capture or surrender territory, reach objectives, and eventually win or lose the contest/war sixty minutes later. We'll call it temporal dislocation in the former case (ie. the shift from archive to simulation), and temporal compression in the latter (ie. many discrete battles in one contest)." (sportsbabel, Nov. 2005)