this won't mean nothing to you.

chip time and fuzzy geolocation. these are the watchwords of a sport at the vanguard of control. a swarm of runners channeled for 26.2 miles down a long corridor, tagged like insects in a laboratory experiment. the clock-foot is synchronized to the clock-eye, which swarms in turn around the course of events, ticking.

touching. spools of clock-skin are spun out along the channel, spun around the city, spun across the network: not a dermal whole, as with a text or a book, but part-fibres that twitch with every passing muscular stepflayed skinny one might suggest as the weaving unfolds.

misty-eyed. the insects run and spray numbers everywhere: we know inexactly where your code is in the swarm at all times.

chicago 2012

"Digital technologies have a connection to the potential and the virtual only through the analog. Take word processing. All of the possible combinations of letters and words are enveloped in the zeros and ones of ASCII code. You could say that entire language systems are numerically enveloped in it. But what is processed inside the computer is code, not words. The words appear on screen, in being read. Reading is the qualitative transformation of alphabetical figures into figures of speech and thought. This is an analog process. Outside its appearance, the digital is electronic nothingness, pure systemic possibility. Its appearance from electronic limbo is one with its electronic transformation. Now take digital sound: a misnomer. The sound is as analog as ever, at least on the playback end, and usually at the recording end as well (the exception being entirely synthesized music). It is only the coding of the sound that is digital. The digital is sandwiched between an analog disappearance into code at the recording and an analog appearance out of code at the listening end.

Take hypertext. All possible links in the system are programmatically prearrayed in its architecture. This has lead some critics to characterize it not as liberating but as downright totalitarian. While useful to draw attention to the politics of the possible, calling hypertext totalitarian is inaccurate. What it fails to appreciate is that the coding is not the whole story: that the digital always circuits into the analog. The digital, a form of inactuality, must be actualized. That is its quotient of openness. The freedom of hypertext is in the openness of its analog reception. The hypertext reader does something that the co-presence of alternative states in code cannot ever do: serially experience effects, accumulate them in an unprogrammed way, in a way that intensifies, creating resonances and interference patterns moving through the successive, linked appearances."

– Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, p.138

chicago 2012

the whole thing is partly inexact.

no, the code is in the miles and the sweat and the pain and the fatigue and the stretching and the training partners and the dirty laundry and the calories and the, and the, and the pantpantpanting.

and then it's in the code. after that, these alphanumerics — but more precisely, the numbers that drive the text and image — have a felt-ness of context and can mean something across the planet, mean something more than just a clinical dividuality given substance as a temporary-or-forever object of information. they can produce new intensities in turn — and call these latter human if you must.

chicago 2012

what kinds of meanings, though, or what kinds of intensities? what kinds of affects can these numbers produce from the ocular mist?

proximal, yet missed. some programs have more of an openness than others: did playing fantasy sports or videogames ever make you want to cry?

_____

(lkl 7039: you made it look like a walk in the pahhhk.)

Line vs. Surface (vs. Volume) Thought

Wii Tennis

Vilém Flusser, "Line and Surface" (1973):

Let us, then, recapitulate our argument, in order to try to suggest what form the new civilization might take. We have two alternatives before us. First, there is the possibility that imaginal thinking [eg. surface, image, screen] will not succeed in incorporating conceptual thinking [eg. line, text]. This could lead to a general depoliticization, deactivation, and alienation of humankind, to the victory of the consumer society, and to the totalitarianism of the mass media. Such a development would look very much like the present mass culture, but in more exaggerated or gross form. The culture of the elite would disappear for good, thus bringing history to an end in any meaningful sense of that term. The second possibility is that imaginal thinking will succeed in incorporating conceptual thinking. This would lead to new types of communication in which man consciously assumes the structural position. Science would then be no longer merely discursive and conceptual, but would have recourse to imaginal models. Art would no longer work at things ("oeuvres"), but would propose models. Politics would no longer fight for the realization of values, but would elaborate manipulable hierarchies of models of behavior. All this would mean, in short, that a new sense of reality would articulate itself, within the existential climate of a new religiosity.

All this is utopian. But it is not fantastic. Whoever looks at the scene can find everything already there, in the form of lines and surfaces already working. It depends on each one of us which sort of posthistorical future there will be.

On the surface there are two primary and interconnected problems with Flusser's line of thought. The first concerns the materiality of the communications medium. While line and surface, or imaginal and conceptual thought are certainly distinct ways of knowing, the fact remains that they are both still represented in the two-dimensional planar form: text on a page and image on celluloid or screen. In other words, we must distinguish between dimensions of perception and inscription. Text is perceived as a line inscribed on the plane of the book, for example, while image is perceived as a surface inscribed on the plane of the screen.

This distinction becomes even more pronounced and relevant as regards the second problem. Flusser wrote his essay in 1973, just as Atari's Pong was being launched to popular audiences in the United States. Even had he been aware of the game at the time of his writing, it is unlikely that it would have significantly altered his theoretical framework, for Pong was in retrospect a rather humble attempt to bring electronic games to life in video form that faithfully represented in gamespace the ludic enclosure of the tennis court. In most respects, it seemed to be yet another example of proliferating surface thought.

Pong

We must recall, however, that the word atari derives from the game Go, and means to advance in attack and capture territory. Soon the simple enclosure on Pong was ruptured as the new videogame medium began to shed its technical constraints and realize its always-latent potential. Static gameplay yielded to scrolling gameplay, most famously in Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. In this quest to save the Princess, Mario captured territory seemingly beyond the boundaries of the television screen to which the console had inscribed its data.

In other words, though partly obscured by its inscription on the two-dimensional plane (as with line and surface) we were witnessing the emergence of a mode of perception in our media quite different from text and image, though it combined elements of both. Its proper name, gesture, is only now becoming apparent as the volume it represents attempts to pull free from the planar screen.

Flusser's lines and surfaces do not refer to a material substrate so much as they consider a mode or technique of viewing what are in both cases two-dimensional substrates, text on the flat page or image on a screen. Given this at the outset, then it seems we ought to consider volumes and volumetric thinking as well, even if they have been flattened to two dimensions with regard to the material substrate of the television screen or arcade console.

The question then becomes: how will somatic or proprioceptive thinking (gesture) fold together with imaginal thinking and conceptual thinking in our understanding of the world? At a surface level, then, what we are actually questioning here is the difference between invention and confinement.

Michel Serres: "What can our bodies do? Almost anything."

weaving: memory, relation, skin

Property Of

sportsBabel, March 2009:

"How precious the ability to transition fluidly between multiple identities, particularly living in a society that says we can have only one? We may try on others like well-made Armani suits when we play sports videogames, for example, or manage fantasy sports teams or wear authentic replica jerseys to the stadium. But these are tightly manufactured identities that generally remain within a constellation of corporate consumer control."

Baudrillard - Screened Out

Giorgio Agamben, "Identity without the Person," Nudities, p.46:

"Persona originally means 'mask,' and it is through the mask that the individual acquires a role and a social identity. In Rome every individual was identified by a name that expressed his belonging to a gens, to a lineage; but this lineage was defined in turn by the ancestor's mask of wax that every patrician family kept in the atrium of its home. From here, it only takes a small step to transform persona into the 'personality' that defines the place of the individual in the dramas and rituals of social life. Eventually, persona came to signify the juridical capacity and political dignity of the free man. The slave, inasmuch as he or she had neither ancestors, nor a mask, nor a name, likewise could not have a 'persona,' that is, a juridical capacity (servus non habet personam). The struggle for recognition is, therefore, the struggle for a mask, but this mask coincides with the 'personality' that society recognizes in every individual (or with the 'personage' that it makes of the individual with, at times, reticent connivance)."

* * *

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.170:

"We can now propose the following distinction: the face is part of a surface-holes, holey surface, system. This system should under no circumstances be confused with the volume cavity system proper to the (proprioceptive) body. The head is included in the body, but the face is not. The face is a surface: facial traits, lines, wrinkles; long face, square face, triangular face; the face is a map, even when it is applied to and wraps a volume, even when it surrounds and borders cavities that are now no more than holes. The head, even the human head, is not necessarily a face. The face is produced only when the head ceases to be a part of the body, when it ceases to be coded by the body, when it ceases to have a multidimensional, polyvocal corporeal code — when the body, head included, has been decoded and has to be overcoded by something we shall call the Face."

Courtesy of Philips

(small billboard above urinal in men's washroom at pub showing football game: human figure and shaver are portrayed in same polygonal wireframe fashion as the prior image above, but not at the expense of pink tinges which remain on the informational skin.)

Deleuze and Guattari, p.170:

"Facialization operates not by resemblance but by an order of reasons. It is a much more unconscious and machinic operation that draws the entire body across the holey surface, and in which the role of the face is not as a model or image, but as an overcoding of all of the decoded parts. Everything remains sexual; there is no sublimation, but there are new coordinates. It is precisely because the face depends on an abstract machine that it is not content to cover the head, but touches all other parts of the body, and even, if necessary, other objects without resemblance. … The face is not animal, but neither is it human in general; there is even something absolutely inhuman about the face."

* * *

Agamben, p.47:

"It is hardly surprising that one's recognition as a person was for millenia one's most jealously guarded and significant possession. Other human beings are important and necessary primarily because they can recognize me. Even the power, glory, and wealth that the 'others' seem so sensitive to, make sense, in the final analysis, only in view of this recognition of personal identity. Of course, one can — as it said that the Caliph of Baghdad, Hārūn al-Rashīd, was fond of doing — walk incognito through the streets dressed as a beggar. But if there were never a moment in which the name, glory, wealth, and power were recognized as 'mine,' if — as certain saints recommend doing — I were to live my whole life in nonrecognition, then my personal identity would also be lost forever."

peace, love

sportsBabel, March 2009:

"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."

_____

(for rod murray: critical race scholar.)

Black Star

Courtesy of Wikipedia

It is an odd relationality that constitutes this place we call time. I am always learning something.

Did you know that Telstar was the first satellite to relay a live transatlantic television feed? Did you know that Adidas created the official match balls of the 1970 FIFA World Cup, also named Telstar? Did you know that the black and white panels of the soccer ball were designed such that the ball would be more visible on black-and-white television? Did you know that the Telstar ball is designed in the shape of a truncated icosahedron, topologically transformed by the addition of air? Did you know that the truncated icosahedron also provided the lens configuration used for focusing the explosive shock waves from the detonator of the Fat Man atomic bomb? Did you know that Coleco introduced a videogame console designed to be connected to a black-and-white television, also named Telstar? Did you know that the Coleco Telstar used the AY-3-8500 chip manufactured by General Instrument, which dedicated pin number 21 for its soccer game?

the troubled words of a troubled mind
i try to understand what is eating you

i try to stay awake but it's 58 hours
since that i last slept with you
what are we coming to?
i just don't know anymore

blame it on the black star
blame it on the falling sky
blame it on the satellite that beams me home

(radiohead, "black star")

I didn't know either. It is an odd relationality that constitutes this place we call time.

posture, gesture, interface

Courtesy of EA Sports

Posture should be considered gesture at its most molecular level.

comma, garçon

Pain and intensity

One of the most important components of sport and physical culture, yet continuously one of the least considered, is the pain one experiences both during and after the embodied becoming of athletic poiesis. To some degree, however small, participating will always hurt. Degree, or intensity, is important here: this pain should be considered on a spectrum from the simple lactic acid soreness one gets from overly taxing the muscles during a workout, to the small tears that appear in muscle fibres from stretching them beyond their current state of elasticity, to the bruises resulting from elbows and other sundry collisions in a basketball game, to the more acute injuries such as sprained ankles or dislocated fingers or broken bones, to the severest sporting traumas requiring surgical intervention.

adidas, threshold

Wherever it may be located on the spectrum, this pain may be variably distasteful or pleasurable, depending upon the context and the relation. But the intensity makes itself present nonetheless, periodically returning as if an old friend or a musical motif that weaves into the soundtrack of one's life. Make no doubt: pain is a marker of memory.

Pain remembers pain.

The anesthesia of telesthesia

At what point does capital enter or infuse this spectrum of pain? There is certainly a qualitative difference between the pain of lifting weights at the gym or a yoga class, on the one hand, and the ruptured ACL of a professional football quarterback that requires surgical intervention on the other. Generally speaking, this difference in the quality of intensity emerges as a question of scale in the assemblage that is the body athletic: have the fibres and connective tissues been severed or ruptured at a microcellular level or at a more complex macro-scale?

But there is also a structural difference between the conditions that led to the pain and the forms of intervention (rest, surgery) required to heal the injured parts of the body. We witness a capitalist imperative in football, for example, that yields to increased speed and size in players, more violent collisions and subsequent injuries, and the becoming-commonplace of surgical interventions to return the cyborg athletes to full operational status as soon as possible — such that an asset does not become unprofitable or a labourer does not risk losing a job.

Saved By Technology

The athletic subject undergoing a surgical procedure is administered an anaesthetic before the operation such that the pain cannot be felt, for once a threshold of intensity is crossed on the spectrum of pain, any sort of pleasure leads to pure agony and trauma. (Is this commensurate with the risks of absolute deterritorialization that Deleuze and Guattari warn against?) One does not even want to approach such a threshold again and the narcosis must be welcomed. In doing so, however, one also opens up the possibility for another (the administrator of the medical gaze) to cut, sever and otherwise realign the structural fibres and relational flows of one's animal body.

Is this so unlike the narcosis that the sports fan embodies when integrated with the networked media-entertainment apparatus? Archives of statistical data, the tracking-images of surveillance and spectacle, and the algorithmic engines of machinic intelligence form a different assemblage with the professional athlete, one that allows a vicarious participation rather than an inert spectatorship. Sports television and videogames are crucially founded upon this principle: if one has experienced at some point the pain of athletic poiesis then the simulation becomes acceptable insofar as its non-touch may represent some never-felt new pain.

Put differently, nostalgia in sport assumes a different meaning as it becomes less about experiencing an idyllic past that has been lost to progress and rather about allowing us to remember a history of our own pain without actually having to submit to its intensity once again. We allow a class of worker-athletes to experience the touch of pain for us instead, which we then consume in mediated and narcotic form. We cut, sever and otherwise realign the structures and flows of this singular-plural body in the process. Flesh intimacy yields to data intimacy, never to return.

Pain remembers pain, then, but perhaps memory hurts memory as well.

Touch and its return

What are the structural conditions of possibility governing memory? This very contemporary question seems to be a matter of determining what technical apparatus is both generated by and interfaced with the human body, does it not? But it is also a matter of the flesh. Where do technical apparatus and flesh meet on Chris Marker's sunless visual horizon? Where do they meet Jonathan Crary's ruminations on the struggle between the collective flesh of the multitude and military-techno-capital over the right to sleep and dream?

Threat Alert Graffiti, NYC

unknown artist
street mural, lower east side, new york city
november, 2009

How long does the perfume linger on the lapel of a man's wool jacket? How long does an image from the eye of Marker's camera flicker in the eye of that same man's memory? How does Marker's Sans Soleil resonate with Crary's reflections on sleep, capital, and the sensations of always-on digitality? As pain and memory most assuredly weave into one another in a very fleshy or visceral way, we might also reconsider how it is that we dream in and of the flesh in the age of ubiquitous data and light-networks.

For what if it was all a dream sequence, anyways? Or what if the whole thing was digital and the perfume was but a simulacrum fashioned from the archival bits of a hundred late-night B-movies and a thousand trendy style magazines scattered across the subway stations of Tokyo?

Digital, touching: will flesh intimacy return? Erin Manning writes:

My gesture toward you is a momentary one. There is no touch that can last beyond the first moment of contact. To touch longer, I must touch again: as my focus shifts elsewhere, my skin soon forgets to acknowledge yours. To touch me, you must return the touch to and from yourself in an ongoing process of exchange. Because it is temporary and immediate, the gesture is never more than momentary. This is a political moment in the most ethical sense, for it demands a continual re-articulation rather than a subsuming into the same. If I attempt to subsume you through touch, I will not reach you. Instead, I will inflict the worst kind of violence upon your body: your body will act only as the recipient of my directionality. Your body will become prey. If, instead, I acknowledge the ephemerality of the gesture, I risk an opening toward [what Agamben refers to as] "the sphere of ethos of the most proper sphere of that which is human" (Politics of Touch, p. 60).

The layout of this particular photo spread appears hip, gritty, underground chic. As they have faced each other in the past across the basketball court or over the dinner table, so too do photographer and model face each other now, standing on opposite platforms of the subway, she to take the A train uptown while he will hop the southbound line to Kreuzberg. But this time the vector of becoming is important: the two train lines are headed in opposite directions. Antagonism and relational aesthetics and an eerie silence. One cannot help but laugh at what is either the cheapest of metaphors or perhaps the formulaic ending to this particular B-movie.

Medusa laughs, at any rate. Or is it Capital? The hour is late, too late, it has been statistically determined, to run frequent and profitable service on these particular public transit lines: there are no trains on the horizon. The two stare at each other across the empty tracks. Their gaze lingers, lingers for too long and then some, lingers for what becomes an uncomfortably interminable period of time. Where is the goddamned train?

The banality of this moment has become spectacular! Or, maybe the cinematic spectacle has been rendered banal by the rhythms and perturbations of capital in flux. He cannot be certain either way.

But certainly a space has been opened by this uncomfortable duration, a space in which the relational fibres come to the fore as units of analysis once again, as with the embodiment of athletic poiesis discussed at the outset of this memoir. Though we are describing here a micropolitics of intersubjectivity, as with before this "micro" begs the question of scale: At what level of embodiment does the trauma appear? Have the relational fibres been stretched, bruised, or severed? Will they be subsumed within the worst kind of violence inflicted upon a body? How will they heal?

Once again he cannot be certain. After all, pain remembers pain.

Coda

June, 2007: The sleep comes, but it is the fragmented, delirious sleep of a man with dengue fever. Tortured sleep. Rivulets of sweat flow into tributaries of liquid linen. Shards of disconnected thought mosaic the global electronic conscious and the matrix of the unconscious. Material and immaterial bridge centuries of temporality. Experiences gained and lost.