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

- - -

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.

babe ruth wind machine

that tumbling blue punctum

catcher signal pitch deliver
battery,           generated

blue sparkle telegraphic
wind tunnel wave crash

a blow.

Sonic the Hedgehog
that tumbling blue punctum

or ellipsis,           if the indigo wind
whipped the studioed muybridge gaze.

Hot Stove retrocode
d|becomes obscura, pointedly

though its three dots at least
smile in opening the breeze . . .

_____

(for baby ruth.)

SEM.i/o.TEX


viriliovirno

Ace Travel Company

Courtesy of Lygia Clark

tractor beam pulls to insectly skies
tractor pull, gridly

but the insects move far more beautifully than this.

..:..
 

(
don't read this as transcendence, historian!
wake up!

love couldn't be any more immanent
if it bit us right in the neck
like a mosquito or a
zombie avatar clone Deleted.
)

 
..:..

shield your eyes
with static veiling,
a dark potential is our present house

a question, unsayable.
 

fleshly, sung from afar.
 

silently singed,
we roll out the sparkles
grounded with lygia Like
in a real-life basketball dream.

Toward a Kinoderm Aesthetics

Mapping emergent territories

When designing a videogame character using 3-D modeling and animation tools, one begins the process with two separate, though interrelated, requirements: a wireframe "skeleton" of the character's body and a two-dimensional texture map of the character's facial appearance. That is, the skin of the character, while imagined as a volumetric construct, is always already understood in its design as a flat surface, laid bare, before its eventual (re)constitution as an animate form.

Face Texture Map

Hence, we may literally describe a cartography of the dermis whose features may be higher or lower in resolution, perhaps more crisp in detail or slightly blurred depending on the distortions in the fold to the volumetric.

The great ephemeral skin

"Open the so-called body and spread out all its surfaces: not only the skin with each of its folds, wrinkles, scars, with its great velvety planes, and contiguous to that, the scalp and its mane of hair, the tender pubic fur, nipples, nails, hard transparent skin under the heel, the light frills of the eyelid, set with lashes — but open and spread, expose the labia majora, so also the labia minora with their blue network bathed in mucus, dilate the diaphragm of the anal sphincter, longitudinally cut and flatten out the black conduit of the rectum, then the colon, then the caecum, now a ribbon with its surface all striated and polluted with shit; as though your dress-maker's scissors were opening the leg of an old pair of trousers, go on, expose the small intestine's alleged interior, the jejunum, the ileum, the duodenum …"

Courtesy of Stelarc

stelarc
stretched skin
2009
4m X 3m image / 3 photo panels

"… or else, at the other end, undo the mouth at its corners, pull out the tongue at its most distant roots and split it, spread out the bats' wings of the palate and its damp basements, open the trachea and make it the skeleton of a boat under construction; armed with scalpels and tweezers, dismantle and lay out the bundles and bodies of the encephalon; and then the whole network of veins and arteries, intact, on an immense mattress, and then the lymphatic network, and the fine bony pieces of the wrist, the ankle, take them apart and put them end to end with all the layers of nerve tissue which surround the aqueous humours and the cavernous body of the penis, and extract the great muscles, the great dorsal nets, spread them out like smooth sleeping dolphins" (Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, p.1).

Kino-gait

One moves through public space. Perhaps it is an overexposed space, or a space of pronounced acceleration in flux. Perhaps one's head is bowed slightly — in an effort to avoid visually dominating the other(s), or in a desire to frustrate authentication protocols, or in a simple attempt toward modesty. But if we are to locate ourselves in regimes of positionality that stand outside of or distinct from duration, we still need to "see" in some way.

It is a touch-based affective co-emergence that allows us to "see" in the process of moving through public space proper, with all of the politics that implies. And kino-gait offers a potentiality by which one may prosthetically explore a filtered memory of that same movement, with the subject located in the negative space of the embodied camera's multiple gaze.

Toward a kinoderm aesthetics

On the surface, it appears that one ought to view the images produced during the kino-gait process by projecting them onto some three-dimensional screen, perhaps shaped like the body of the individual who originally wore the camera apparatus: an anthropometrically correct screen. After all, we are describing a volumetric body moving relationally with other bodies in the corridors and conduits of biological flow. Do we not need to respect this phenomenon of the body, its tangible fact as thing?

No. Once the body has been imaged — even in negative space — and abstracted from relation, the distinctions between three-dimensional and two-dimensional outputs as technologies of expression become less significant (although not entirely trivial): a media-specific analysis suggests that either may prove more beneficial than the other in any particular context. It is rather how these outputs as aesthetic forms are inscribed in networks of power — as, for example, what Benjamin describes with "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" — that is of greater importance. How does power compromise the image produced in the abstraction of relation? How is relation compromised in turn?

Some omniocular visioning systems, such as motion capture, rely on a nearly perfect convergence of all camera lenses. In others, such as with ProZone, there simply needs to be a measure of overlap in order for the cameras to effectively monitor and communicate the position of a tracking-object. The point is that in any system at least two cameras ought to see the same marker at any one moment in time.

Given the complex contours that identify each of our body-volumes, not to mention the unique signatures in gait each of us performs, any kinoderm array of cameras will for the most part be characterized by divergence. We are curvy bodies, after all. And this is what curves do when the gaze is directed the other way: they diverge.

But the point remains: in any omniocular visioning system at least two cameras ought to see the same marker at any one moment in time. Even given the divergent qualities of any kinoderm array, this need not imply a large number of cameras. In Kino-Gait Study No.3 (above), there was a significant degree of overlap-through-divergence with only five cameras on the arrayed body.

Left: \'Aperture,\' courtesy of Antony Gormley

left: antony gormley
aperture
2009-10

Can we reverse engineer and transduce techniques of videogame modeling and animation to lift the kino-gait skin from the inscription of emergence and lay it flat on the surface? Can we invent new techniques? Can we literally describe a dynamic cartography of the kinodermis — whose features may be higher or lower in resolution, perhaps more crisp in detail or slightly blurred depending on the distortions in the fold from the volumetric?

Can we stitch the various cameras together, in other words, to provide a coherent two-dimensional text for the reader — a cinematic version of the Stelarcian skin discarded above?

Such techniques will require advanced dialogues with gait analysis, motion capture biomechanics, mathematics, digital signal processing, sculpting, choreography, music and others in order to create a similarly functional two-dimensional map of the space that is being surveyed. But it will also require holes, glitches, backdoors, easter eggs, etc. — what we might refer to as pores in the skin. In short, deludology as an active strategy of design so that the mobile political subject always retains opportunities for movement.

The deludic eruptions of holey space are but one element of a skin tectonics that offer the transludic subject-in-relation a micropolitics of maneuver.

Desert Split

Courtesy of Sony

If we agree that in the near future online console war videogames constitute the potential for crowdsourcing a "swarm-in-being," which may be leveraged in combat operations conducted by national armed services or private militia forces, then we must consider how the aesthetics of perception are entwined with these political ends.

What are the consequences of differential frames of perception between the two spaces — the videogamer toggling between first-person and third-person perspectives during play, while the actual military operation remains resolutely first-person, embodied and volumetric?

The task of developing the swarm-in-being appears to be twofold: to create and modulate a hypermediated representation of warfare for the gamer at home, but also to develop tools for the soldier in the field that similarly allow for toggling between first-person and third-person subjectivities. This newest mutation of Virilio's logistics of perception sees Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Desert Screen yielding to the topology of Desert Split.