textile burden

textile burden

These temporary tattoos designed as a pace-keeping device (that is, for metering time) were available for free at the Chicago Marathon courtesy of Nike and the swoosh logo — but only if the runner had their race bib barcode scanned first.


"Doesn't it make sense for the referee to just scan a bar code on the player's uniform to register an infraction?"

(sportsbabel, january 2005)


"The 'closer' the skin of spectacle is to the animal body proper, the more virile the transmission."

(sportsbabel, september 2010)


"The extended skin of the athletic uniform is sponsored; the actual skin may become sponsored as well (tattoos representing gambling or casino web sites?); and professional sports teams have insured various athlete body parts to minimize investment risk. Now I am wondering about a related, but slightly different proposition: What if the intellectual property under consideration was DNA?"

(sportsbabel, march 2008)

genetic mutation (escape codes)

genomic variation

"At the gala opening ceremonies of the 2004 Summer Ω∟¥₥₱¡© Games in Athens, Greece, organizers mounted a spectacular tableau of Western cultural history. Merging figures of Greek mythology, the changing aesthetics of Hellenic pottery, and an ascending chain of modern humanity, the Olympic pageant metamorphosed from epoch to epoch, culminating in a cosmic Milky Way lake of lights. In a last transformation (effected by a complex system of wires, projections, and laser lights), the luminous lake rose into the air to form the double helix, a spiraling light show representing, if not the alpha, then the omega of it all. The BBC1 commentators who bantered the pageant play-by-play evinced no surprise at the transition from the horizontal cosmos to the whirling vertical of the molecule. It was as if this finale was already anticipated, evincing the 'of course' of recognition and familiarity, as if an old friend had arisen from its familiar stellar habitat."

(Judith Roof, The Poetics of DNA, p.1)

- - -

skin tectonics, surgery and a question of autonomy

"we don't eavesdrop specifically on you (the freedom), we just abstract models from databases for statistical profiling (the non-freedom) . . ."

- - -

"Thus while we see the antagonism of the labouring body move from the musculo-skeletal to the central nervous system to the micro-memory coding modules of DNA, in the parallel movement to colonize relation we must similarly code the spectrum of in-between located in the trans-subjective. And here is where we locate the one binary that is irreducible, for relation as understood by capital expansion today is distilled via systems analysis and statistical method to the ones and zeroes of the machine. Embodied poiesis is always already compromised by the digital form, while synchronicity exists as the tangential touching that tracks these skins in relation."

(sportsBabel, May 2010)

- - -

variations on the body, appropriate to the task at hand


omega, right-angle, yen, mill, peso, inverted exclamation mark, copyright, dollar sign



(hat tip to ®™ark)

Intensionality (for Jean-Luc Nancy)

On Performing the University of Disaster, Part Four

Those in the spy game know that the situation is anything but binary. It is never so simple as Good Guys versus Bad Guys, East versus West, or Christianity versus Islam. There is a whole panoply of actors involved in any particular crisis, and the successful spy needs to be familiar with them all: governments and corporations and celebrities and madmen, each with agendas that more or less align with the others.

Of course there are other spies as well, whose relations and alliances multiply and decay as the tides of contingency wash through and back again. There seems to be a unique valence to any thread of relation, and it is in the spy network that these multiple valences are most in flux. It is a precarious thing to be in relation with other spies, any one of whom might be willing to help you or kill you, kind of, sometimes.

James Bond is never taken by surprise when a co-conspirator of his turns out to be working for one of the other sides. He simply knows, as if it was scripted, and all of a sudden flips into action — bashing an intruder in the mouth, leaving a perpetrator bound and gagged, or suggesting that uniquely hostile and aggressive sex only a flashing hatred for the other can produce.

But the Spy doesn't know: these codes and overcodes can be tricky things. How does he parse any particular message received from Agent 99? Does Homo Generator (or any of his henchmen) come into question? Blohard or Elektra King, Dr. No or Octopussy? Whom to trust?

Can he trust the Colonel?

Binary Relation

Brian Holmes is familiar with these reversals of power. Though not of the university, he knows of disaster. But of course the university is not a simple binary either, there being many colours on the spectrum of pedagogy bound by inside and out. It is somewhat like his relationship to space: he maps existential territories as if seen from above by some flying bird or drone, but works resolutely at the ground level so that colourful spectrums of possibility may emerge in between. He, too, flips into action.

What about time? Can we locate the temporal on a spectrum as well? Perhaps not a spectrum, but rather a folding. Holmes points out that the eye in the sky is only able to see so clearly and readily if all the subjects it surveys are synchronized to its atomic clock. In fact all cybernetic systems are crucially dependent upon different concepts of time: circular time, linear time, just in time — each variably folding into the other to accomplish a particular end. There is a moment in which these different concepts meet, however, when one does not know which system constitutes the particular moment. It is the tangent, or the touching of the eventedness of time.

Overcode Blur

What is the next wave that Kondratieff forecasts for us? Clearly it is to finally collapse the partition allowing us to maintain an illusory binary between organic and technical-prosthetic. The endocolonization of the human body by capital moves inexorably toward its tipping point. But we witness a reversal in that the healthy disciplined body has run through the mills of assembly line and network economy to become the sickly lipidinal and libidinal motor of the contemporary age.

This only partly describes the coming wave of capital expansion, however. Any movement to colonize the body on a planetary scale — which, to be sure, will become manifest with a variety of technologies and modes of coercion — must be accompanied by a parallel movement to colonize relation. Capital needs to insinuate itself into every conversation so that the singular body may be more fully laid bare for corporate invasion. Only through the spectacular SPECTRE of desire and death can life become so profitable — and for profits to be maximized both production and consumption must be priced by the valences of the network, or what we call relation.

Thus while we see the antagonism of the labouring body move from the musculo-skeletal to the central nervous system to the micro-memory coding modules of DNA, in the parallel movement to colonize relation we must similarly code the spectrum of in-between located in the trans-subjective. And here is where we locate the one binary that is irreducible, for relation as understood by capital expansion today is distilled via systems analysis and statistical method to the ones and zeroes of the machine. Embodied poiesis is always already compromised by the digital form, while synchronicity exists as the tangential touching that tracks these skins in relation.

Build the machine to kill the machine, if you so desire. (But did you remember to kill that machine?)

Desiring Machine

For Bond, memory is a series of flickring images of Aston Martins or Alfa Romeos or whatever vehicular object vectoral capital is sponsoring that day. (He does not remember if Fiat was part of said flickr stream.) The Fordist dream of Detroit and America™ meets the spectacular relic of its imperial predecessor, manifest in the sexy phallogocentrism of MI6. For the Spy, on the other hand, memory possesses a different consideration of movement and speed. Rhythm and tempo are more readily apparent, the eye more in balance with the sense perceived by the rest of the body.

Just then a stranger bumps into him in a crowded room, a slip of paper is pressed into his palm. It reads:

I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst? (46.112226, 7.930622.)

Courtesy of Google

The Spy finds himself in a chance(?) rendezvous with a top strategist from the University of Disaster, as the two meet simultaneously at the bottom of the hill for the arduous trek to the briefing room. This man is the embodiment of the technopolitical trajectory envisioned by Virilio: transportation, transmission, transplantation. Deep in his heart this man understands alterity: he understands the massive machinic apparatus of medico-capital and the subtle modulations of code that keep him alive. The double agent thus finds himself walking with the agent, doubled.

This man does not communicate his alterity to the Spy. In fact, the two barely speak at all: the young agent translates to French poorly, and his Philosophy is even worse, while the older agent performs an emergent calculus that economizes every breath not for the trivial matter of chatter, but rather for the art of locomotion itself. He refuses the bond of the motorized chariot that would surely transport in regal fashion one with so many stars and stripes invisibly inscribed to his uniform lapel. He will not allow himself to be imprisoned by his own body.

(In basic training for any secret agent about to enter the field of potential, the first lesson one learns is that such traps are everywhere to be found. The question is where. The question is when.)

Each individual's walk becomes a labour as they trundle forth on their Sisyphean quest. For one it is simply to persevere, while for the other it is to slow down and renegotiate relation. Both processes unfold as pain. But while time is experienced differentially by each man, simultaneity has now become a synchronicity: the two communicate in Philosophy after all. It is a coded form, no doubt, with not a solitary word having been spoken.

If I understand anything of your thought, sir, it is born of that flesh relation and the tension of non-touch between our bodies turned inward to kindle a fire.

Courtesy of Ryan King

Trusting his instincts, the Spy writes a report to the Colonel. He takes the standard Field Operations form provided by the Agency, flips it over, and writes on the smooth open expanse that is the back of the page. He writes intensively — for how can one remember thirst otherwise? He invests his whole body into his writing so that perhaps she, too, will understand a coded Philosophy with not a solitary word having been spoken.

(thanks to all those who helped reprogram toronto version 2.0 and make it even more cryptic)

klōn, gestation, labour, natality



i woke up one morning to find out i had been cloned.

it was painless, really. a few bits of data lying around had suddenly been reconstituted into a new me. clippings whose sum value approaches zero as the replication approaches infinity, the baudrillard-image might suggest, xeroxing their way across the ecosystem.

i didn't feel a thing…

Gamespace (Panic)


'Replication has also long been manifest in the sportocratic imagination, its genealogical roots reaching back at least to the mechanical reproduction of baseball cards and bubblegum. But these flattened, lifeless representations lack sufficient dynamism for a culture hell-bent on its own immortality, and so we begin to animate the images by repurposing the data stocks and flows generated as a derivative of baseball's industrial production process. At the cusp between biomechanics and the age of simulation, Strat-O-Matic becomes the link in the helical chain connecting Branch Rickey and scientific management in baseball with Billy Beane, the sabermetric revolution and the third wave eugenics of baseball performance.'
(June 2006)



'Though the vector of flow is clearly directed towards an obsolescence of the body, the question is if we will continue to see periodic eddies in the current, in which we "retrieve" the body or parts thereof for one purpose or another.'
(July 2005)

* * *

Bodies without organs.
Bodies without bodies.
_____ without _____.
Fill in your own fucking theory.
(June 2007)



'This identity constellation of corporate consumer control is marked by its architecture and interface, and it obscures its bodily remainders in the process. In navigating multiple identities, on the other hand, one explicitly acknowledges the remainders, indeed embraces them. The former is an administered, metered and exchanged passage into the skin, while the latter offers a contingent and outward invitation of the flesh.'
(March 2009)

Mimetic Polycarbon

Mimetic Polycarbon
(Facebook Self-Portrait)
January 30, 2010

'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.'
(February 2010)


Boris Groys, 'The Weak Universalism', e-flux:

"Today, in fact, everyday life begins to exhibit itself—to communicate itself as such—through design or through contemporary participatory networks of communication, and it becomes impossible to distinguish the presentation of the everyday from the everyday itself. The everyday becomes a work of art—there is no more bare life, or, rather, bare life exhibits itself as artifact. Artistic activity is now something that the artist shares with his or her public on the most common level of everyday experience. The artist now shares art with the public just as he or she once shared it with religion or politics. To be an artist has already ceased to be an exclusive fate, becoming instead an everyday practice—a weak practice, a weak gesture. But to establish and maintain this weak, everyday level of art, one must permanently repeat the artistic reduction—resisting strong images and escaping the status quo that functions as a permanent means of exchanging these strong images."


(to laura dean, for fanning the flames)

Gestures Sacred and Profane

Two temporal vectors

Notes from sportsBabel, September 2008:

Structurally, late modern sport operates along two primary temporal vectors: it is at once the eternal recurrence of a particular sporting history wrapped in the warm folds of nostalgia (or better, what LCD Soundsystem might call borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered century) and a continual preparation for contagion, processing, incarceration and trauma.

Somewhere in between this implicated past and future is the now of consumption.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe

Presidential Fist Bump

The micropolitics of contagion

This past weekend I was at a college basketball game in Toronto. Like many other cosmopolitan cities with a mobile corporate class, an ethnically and culturally diverse population, and readily-available vectors of connection by land, air and water, Toronto has become a locus for the swine flu virus that has been spreading around the world. The discourse networks that link (and compress) the city are continually relaying locally-relevant information concerning H1N1 contagion, diagnosis and prevention. A strange mixture of fear and apathy hangs in the air.

As with those from every other walk of life, athletes are being hit by the virus and forced into varying degrees of illness and quarantine. Sporting contests have become a threat matrix of opportunity for contagion with the other. There was a moment of hesitation after this particular game ended, the players shuffling as they remembered the directive not to shake hands with the other team. Instead, each competitor was able to "fist bump" his opponent in a respectful post-game gesture.

Are we witnessing what Paul Virilio might have called the pollution of proactivity?

A personal history of the fist bump

Fist bumping appears to be a relatively new phenomenon. The awkward attempts by courtside celebrities in recent television narratives suggest as much, anyway, and Barack Obama's hip gesture with Michelle Obama the night he claimed the U.S. Democratic Party nomination more clearly punctuates the unfolding text. But I can personally remember a culture of fist bumping in basketball as early as 1995, when I transferred schools and began playing for a new university team, and I am quite certain that the phenomenon predates my own ethnocentric bias.

In other words, it is not new.

Notably, the first team I played for was pretty monoculturally white, while the second team was much more ethnically and culturally diverse, drawing players from across the country and internationally, including such cosmopolitan cities as Toronto or Montreal. The processes of negotiating alterity on the court and in the locker room and into the more diffused conduits of the campus town were more readily present for me than they had been on my earlier team. Handshakes — a form of touching — became a particularly important factor in these negotiations. And the fist bump was one of these significant tactile forms for me, at first primarily between myself and certain Afro-Caribbean teammates, before diffusing to include my relations with almost everyone else on the team.

At that time the fist bump was performed as a form of gestural communication between the players and not by spectators or "consumers" of the sport, whether televised or no. Basketball provided a vector of exchange distinct from that of the market. A temporary community was formed. In this sense, it is to President Obama's credit that he laces on a pair of shoes every once in a while and plays the game himself.

Digital, contagions

Notes from sportsBabel, August 2009:

Of course, when we play pickup basketball (or any other form of physical culture, for that matter), we sweat. This is the fact of our very being-in-the-world as athletic bodies.

Sweat bears a paradox, though: it is at once a positive form of olfactory writing or inscription that signifies our athletic poiesis, and a liquid-haptic vector of waste, filth, toxin, or contagion.

This does not prevent us from touching the other, however, in our sweaty athletic-becoming. The abjection secreted by this paradox commingles-with and washes-through those bodies one comes into contact with during production and passage. So long as both of us are sweaty, it doesn't matter. This is as true in sport as it is in labour as it is in sex.

But what if one's hand was dry? Would the desire to touch the other player's sweaty palm remain?

This is not a post about fisting

This is not a pipe - Magritte

Holy space

Upon expressing my surprise that the basketball players were fist bumping their opponents to prevent the spread of swine flu, I was informed that the local Catholic Church was doing something similar, replacing the handshake of peace between fellow parishioners with the bump of a closed fist. Not having seen it in person myself I wasn't certain, but this blog post seems to suggest that such a virus prevention strategy is indeed emerging in the church's holy spaces. Peace be with you, accompanied by a fist bump.

When does the flip take place? When do the subjects of hierarchical spaces become those of social meshworks? When does alterity curl? When does the fist bump as gesture of solidarity become a generalized strategy of capillarized power? When does it become a micropolitics of response to contagion?

At the threshold of touching, it appears.

Dispatches from the future

"The Panther Moderns allowed four minutes for their first move to take effect, then injected a second carefully prepared dose of misinformation. This time, they shot it directly into the Sense/Net building's internal video system. At 12:04:03, every screen in the building strobed for eighteen seconds in a frequency that produced seizures in a susceptible segment of Sense/Net employees. … Subliminally rapid images of contamination: graphics of the building's water supply system, gloved hands manipulating laboratory glassware, something tumbling down into darkness, a pale splash" (William Gibson, Neuromancer, 1984).

"He managed not to recoil when she took his hand. He was getting information from her. Let her touch him as long as she kept talking" (Octavia Butler, Clay's Ark, 1984).

Dunking as cyborgian ballistics

Notes from sportsBabel, September 2009:

For the longest time the primary skill required for success in basketball was a certain marksmanship that allowed one to quickly determine trajectories and shoot the ball into the basket. Height was certainly favoured, but only insofar as it allowed those shot trajectories (and corresponding rebounds of missed attempts) to be shorter and more precise.

Dunking, however, changed the sport forever. While a genealogy of the dunk as a particularly Afrocentric form of cultural expression needs to be accounted for here, suffice it to say in the meantime that while it originally favoured the extremely tall player the athletic skill set changed to favour the quick, explosive leaper: Earl "The Goat" Manigault, Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins, and Herman "The Helicopter" Knowings. Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter. James White, Justin Darlington, and Guy DePuy, to name but a few of these artists.

With dunking, the athletic body itself assumed a ballistic trajectory in order to stuff the ball into the goal both efficiently and emphatically. Any understanding of the dunk as an expressive art form in its own right must acknowledge this a priori corporeal basis of the athletic agent.

An aside from Planet Lovetron

The year is 1979. Twice within a month, at the mid-way point on a temporal trajectory between Parliament-Funkadelic's Mothership Connection and the novels by Gibson and Butler quoted above, Darryl Dawkins of the Philadelphia 76ers shatters a glass basketball backboard by dunking. If we can say that the dunk is the expression of an athletic body's ballistic trajectory and if the basketball court apparatus is the factory of the professional basketball economy, then does Dawkins not become the nomadic warrior smashing an organ of state striation?

Perhaps like those who smashed clocks and looms before him?

Affirmatively, we want the funk. Can a true choice to engage with the apparatus even be possible in the absence of possibility for such a refusal? Do we not shape the yoke of our existence?

As if channeling George, Bootsy and the rest of the P-Funk connection, Dawkins named the dunk "the Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam." And thus it bears repeating: any understanding of the dunk as an expressive art form in its own right must acknowledge this a priori corporeal basis of the athletic agent.

Now consider LeBron James (as Business LeBron), who suggested in a recent Nike television commercial that "dunk contests are bourgeois." What relationships would you perceive between these two performers nearly three decades apart? Consider meme and rhythm sciences in the process. Defer judgment.

Consider it a little longer. Just do it.

A third temporal vector?

Do we follow the interwoven threads of an Afrofuturist aesthetics and politics — as laid out by Mark Sinker, Mark Dery, Kodwo Eshun, Paul Miller and others — to locate the relational connections between black science fiction and music? Do we locate similar connections between basketball and Afro-American or Afro-Caribbean forms of music such as jazz, funk, dub, hip hop, rap and jungle/dnb?

Do we see the passage of the pickup basketball player to the league basketball player as what Deleuze and Guattari would suggest is a temporary capture of the nomadic war machine? Do we see the fist bump emerge from being a strictly tactile form of communication to become an object of information for the integrated spectacle? Do we see that in the "surgical space" of the stadium, the fist bump meme has been rendered a carefully-controlled vector of signification?

And when a real contagion (H1N1) generates a new state of fear, do we witness the relatively open-handed gesture of the handshake become the closed yet equally expressive gesture of the fist bump, effecting a flip (of switch, of moebius twist) between the sacred and the profane? Do we suggest the fist bump returns as an Afrofuturist form of the "ghostly DNA" that Gibson refers to in Neuromancer, mutated from earlier variants of Black Power and the raised-fist salute?

Finally, do we presume that Larry, Angelo and Lupus Yonderboy of the Panther Moderns were white?

What Is a Stadium?

In his essay "What Is a Camp?", Giorgio Agamben attempts to locate a political-juridical structure of the camp form that allowed and facilitated the atrocities and crimes against humanity committed in their spaces. But rather than a sad footnote consigned to the archives of history, he suggests, the camp endures as a diagram of the biopolitical condition located throughout the contemporary global context of what we have referred to elsewhere as Empire.

To be sure, in excavating those sites of horror such as Dachau or Auschwitz, Agamben does not mean to suggest that each of us today lives the embodied politics and naked existence of those who have ever been embroiled in the concentration camp or refugee camp. Rather, in developing earlier work by Hannah Arendt he illustrates how the camp-as-form operates "as the hidden matrix of the politics in which we still live, and we must learn to recognize it in all of its metamorphoses" (Means Without End: Notes on Politics, p. 44).

my tattoo
Tattoo on my ankle of a basketball with my university jersey number inside.

Most assuredly, the metamorphoses of which Agamben describes can and should be located on a spectrum of trauma, pain, embodiment and what he refers to as the sheer reduction to zoe or naked life. In drawing the matrixial relations between the concentration camp proper and the camp-as-form that structures other biopolitical contexts — as I will suggest, for example, with postmodern sport and the contemporary stadium — I do not mean to draw an equivalence between the Holocaust victim and the high performance athlete. Rather, I wish to identify in a non-trivial sense those structuring principles found in the most extreme version of the camp and how they, in their metamorphosis to the ludic arena, may also be found to structure and govern the biopolitics of those most purportedly noble pursuits we call sport.

(from chapter one in "body+politics: towards a sporting multitude," a work-in-progress doctoral dissertation for the european graduate school of media and communications)