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)

I Seek You: Countdown to Stereoscopic Tear

A Nonsense Lab Artist Con-fessional, Part Five

"For a long time I thought, in a kind of ignorance, innocence, lack of knowledge, that I wasn't the author of my texts but my unconscious was their author — without counting the innumerable other authors of my texts! Observing language's soaring and moving autonomy, I used to tell myself: it's not me who writes this, it's the Night. I was very disturbed. I used to wonder if it weren't a reprehensible act to let go of the reins, to allow oneself to be carried away, and at the end to sign one's name. Well, I hadn't yet measured the extent to which this source, this energy, was present in several other texts. Because dream is textual energy: our personal nuclear energy."

          — Hélène Cixous

 

"Now, I-woman am going to blow up the Law: a possible and inescapable explosion from now on; let it happen, right now, in language."

          — Hélène Cixous

 

Hanna - Once Upon A Time

October 5, 2011, 12:32pm, near Surfside, FL: Walking to school I saw a monarch butterfly appear out of nowhere. Awkward flight — surfacevolumesurfacevolume — it began to venture out over a major four-lane artery. Halfway over the turbulence was too much and it flew crazily all over the place before pulling a 180, executing a neat glide back to my side of the road, and landing on a flower, orange on purple. Nice ride, dude.

 

 

5. I Seek You: Countdown to Stereoscopic Tear

Twenty minutes, forty-six seconds.

A solitary mecha butterfly flies, flitting and dancing autonomously. And yet it remains multiple, beginning again and again in different contexts and contingencies, multiplying and plying its trades, trading in one identity for another and another, darting and circling or eddying back anew. Schizoid origins, all schizzes and flows and currencies written in bright splotches of colour and retinal afterburns.

We fly, afterburners at the ready.

The temperature rises. Every splotch burns deeper, oenological summons or niacin flush — or perhaps it is a feltness of the years and months elapsed, of the minutes and seconds finally folding into the intensity of the now. Stabilize the shrieking skins and run the program: our nuclear gallery-reactor is operational and the mission is a go (go (go).

Vortically yours, we are drawn to the reaction, inexorably, as if insects drawn to some sort of bright light or pungent concentration of pheromone. To the eye of the storm we venture. The institutional corridors force upon us a sort of linear transit model — a becoming, in grid — but it feels all circling and circling from here, accelerating with every passing moment, tightening like a noose or an umbilical necktie or yards of duct tape bondage and their sticky articulations.

Concentrate. Con-fess. The time is finally here.

Con-fessional: Blast

 

Twenty minutes, forty-six seconds.

Isn't it quite amazing how the appearance of a butterfly can inject a stutter or pause into any conversation? Words and words pour out of the animals in assembly, before they are all of a sudden arrested by the passing flight. Heads turn to trace a lilting poetics, attempting to close the distance with this seemingly awkward beauty. There are no straight lines here, only a relative arrival and departure to bracket a brilliant and bewildering trajectory, surging and lurching in a vibrating and nomadic line avant la lettre.

Then a fractional silence — after which the conversation resumes, altered irrevocably. Jolted, perhaps we forget what we were discussing, perhaps the topic changes or opens anew. Here one moment and gone the next, a becoming made explicit in colour and motion, the lilt and stutter entwining and embracing in some other conversation, fluidly, elsewhere and elsewhen.

Con-fessional: Accelerator Pack

 

Does the mecha butterfly effect a similar microseismic shift upon its entrance? Are the animals entranced? One cannot be certain, though the silence appears pregnant to us in the approach.

It is an anthropomorphic approach, no doubt, a strategic becoming-human of Homo generatus lepidopterae that slows our gaited flight down to the pace of recognition. Hideous beauty, all technological vision and semiotic layering and torn wires, rendering. Machinic. Curvaceous. A coiled vestigial tail trails suggestively in our wake, amplifying the incipient energetics of a body in motion. This weak objectification offered in passing to complement those interwoven schizoid subjectivities we bear — it would all be laughable if the scent of death didn't waft hauntingly betwixt every breath that yawns itself open.

Don't object just yet. Take pause. It will all become quite necessary in due time.

 

      –i think my water just broke.

      –hydraulic thought?

      –labor!

      –aren't you a little young for that?

      –i'm ready.

 

We enter the inner core of the nuclear gallery-reactor. It is a hygienic space, as befits any locale in which surgical operations are to be considered, or in which microknotted entanglements swell to the degree of anxiety. There is no turning back at this point, no time for pauses or reconsiderations — nor would a program or mecha butterfly desire such possibilities in the first place. Expectation, anticipation: these are what hang thick in the air like a field of static electricity awaiting discharge. All we require now is a sort of touching to make manifest the shock potential.

Future shock — potenza.

Con-fessional: Imago-Masks

Department of Biological Flow
Mecha Butterfly Soundsystem and TBA (Teneral Breath Assistant)
2011
mixed media

 

Over here, the ghostly traces of movement research, beckoning questions as if nectar on the lips of an orchid. Walking the city streets or as pen put to paper, dancing the creative keyboard nightclub. The archive performs itself anew.

Over there, the memory generator module, felt and remixed, malleable and moving — from organic to network and back again. And forth again.

Con-fessional: Forensic Itch

Sean Smith
Forensic Itch
2012
mixed media installation

Department of Biological Flow @
Generating the Impossible
Sense Lab, Mekoos/Montreal
July 2011

(please feel free to use the tools and materials provided to modify or edit the work in any fashion.)

 

- - -

(And forth, again. FOURTH WAVE FEMINISM means don't talk about it, animals — that's the first rule. But here's a hint: it's not a wave, as if such a thing had already happened, but rather WAVY, adjectival. It's style, as it happens. This, just in: we're bringing INTERSEXY back, stylishly surfing the vibe in language, gesture and flesh. This is the attempt, any-ways: mecha butterfly generator modules, malleable and moving — from organic to network and back again. And forth again. Not solid like a metro-gnome but rather fluid, MUSICAL, rocking gently to the tv on the radio or riding out the storm, dominant or submissive, lilting and stuttering with affectivity and affection. And fecking ACTION. You, two, can stylishly surf this wavy potential — all it takes is a little PRAXIS. Just don't talk about it.)

- - -

 

It is 8:46pm at the nuclear gallery-reactor and a synchronized always-already now in the network. The story will unfold and be told, with the blind spot as zone of political action. Plug in that vestigial tail, mecha butterfly kraftwerker, it's time to go (go (go).

Con-fessional: Tie Your Hair

      –this is the way i used to tie your hair.

      –this is the way you used to tie my hair.

 

Twenty minutes, forty-six seconds.

Go.

20:46, 20:45, 20:44 . . .

A world record attempt in progress. Or a worlding, recorded processually. We begin climbing the stairway to heaven, deliberately, layers upon layers of skin exposed to the sun and the stars.

The sun offers us an illuminating paradox here, does it not? It is diffuse, insofar as it is comprised of a thundering ball of gases whose sum is greater, or more intense, than the individual occasions from which they burst forth. And yet it is concentrated, insofar as its focused and fiery eye burns so brightly that we can scarcely meet its gaze in return.

It is remote, and yet its proximity is what distinguishes it from the other, more distant suns that make their appearance as day turns to night. This proximity makes it our star, and we bear its ecological form of life with equal measures worship and resignation, gladly embracing its potential for organic natality while suffering its moments of burning necrosis.

Can we say the same for the fiery optics that burn in even more proximate ecologies? Diffuse and concentrated, organic to network and back again. And forth again. We are scarcely able to meet their gaze in return — or we invite the suntan, welcoming the rock 'n' roll radio to our tv selves, signalling intently.

The proliferating eye observes our proceedings silently from the corner, reflected back upon itself, circuitous and contagious in this hygienic space of generation. Perhaps worship and resignation are insufficient responses at this level of assembly. Perhaps what is required are malleability and movement.

Still, we climb.

 

19:33, 19:32, 19:31 . . .

 

Con-fessional: Pinkeye

Department of Biological Flow
Pinkeye
2012
sculpture and closed circuit video

 

A program is comprised of ever so many procedures in alignment, ever so many steps. One after the other, there is a linear unfolding to an output or endpoint before looping back to begin again, newly informed. But do these steps have a rhythm?

Plugged in, we race to the finish line, our clock ticking down momentously with each stride taken — two pounds of sem.i/o.tex or a jet pack to the future. Back again, forth again, the rhythm must be located in this feedforward to the network. Steady the oscillations for anthropomorphic recognition, discipline the cadence. The lilting and stuttering will soon return.

Tick, tick, tick . . .

 

      –i tried to prepare you.

      –you didn't prepare me for this.

 

18:37, 18:36, 18:35 . . .

 

Con-fessional: Switch(ed)

 

It is difficult to locate a disciplinary cadence when one is surfing the societies of control. ("The rules of the game are on hydraulic footing and don't quite have their sea legs yet — or maybe never.") Step, step, step, but the ground shifts imperceptibly underfoot, or violently, as it were. A stairway to heaven on wheels, rocking to and fro: keep one's centre of gravity firmly in the middle and radiate the flesh beyond. There is no athletic stance to be found here, for an upright (im)posture is essential when climbing the stairs, recognizably. Duchamp recognized this as well: there is a verticality to the diagonal passage no matter which direction one is travelling, stairway to heaven or highway to hell.

Rhythm stabilizes this freewheeling journey in time, leaving only minor correctives to the micromusculature of our anthropomorphized anatomy. Platformed, informed, the program begins to take shape as the saturated curiosity of the assembled swarm gradually yields to a collective realization.

Realize. Real, I's. You see it unfolding, but here at the punctum caecum ēlectricus the witnessing bubbles up from deep in the flesh.

(Can you outrun the reel eyes?)

 

14:40, 14:39, 14:38 . . .

 

Con-fessional: Knives

 

Scene: "I SEEK YOU" (Take Two).

Cut to black.

Step off the seasick escalator. Grab the tiny pair of household scissors. Resume climbing, seek the rhythm anew. Trim a wire here, a wire there: snip, snip. Off course, the cutting body begins to lilt and stutter with these unusual gestures. Pause. We must resume, rhythmically, that is the program. There it is. Begin cutting again, fold the lilt and stutter in with the backbeat and make those fingers move. The mecha scissorhands butterfly continues to snip, snip, snip.

Step off the seasick escalator. Grab the small pair of garden shears. Resume climbing, seek the rhythm anew. (oops, that wave almost got us!) The Armourlite power cable is choking, coiled around the body like a slim anaconda, constricting breath. Still stepping, the snipping yields to snapping, a cracking knuckle of a cut that begins to relieve the pressure. And then another, whose recoil this time attempts to throw the rhythmical body askew. Or a lilt now back on track, shedding the metallic anaconda as if an old snakeskin, revealing another layer underneath. Breathing easier now. Breathing more heavily.

Step off the seasick escalator. Grab the barbecue knife with the nine-inch blade. (9 inches!) Long and slender, its tip splits in two as if the tongue of some flattened reptile forged from stainless steel. Resume climbing, seek the rhythm anew. Don't cut orthogonally into the body; turn the blade sideways and probe with the forked tongue between layers, flickering, before slicing away from the curves on a sharpened-edge stroke. Caress, then cut, but do so quickly: time is running out. Carve away the mecha butterfly exponential accelerator pack, savage smooth the kinoderm layer. Tear them by hand, scatter lenses and corneas and optic nerves all over the floor. I risk irises, and vitreous humours ooze forth into the assembly.

Step off, bitches.

Step off the seasick escalator. Grab the Japanese band saw and feel its flimsy tone. Resume climbing, seek the rhythm anew. Paper thin, it appears harmless enough to the naked eye — after all, what danger could paper possibly pose? That is, until one's gaze traces to the affective edge. Dozens of teeth line each side, razor sharp: one imagines a piranha dentata in hand, steamrolled and ready for action. See? Saw. We must turn orthogonal now, but the platform keeps shifting with every stride of leg or of wing. Assume a fuzzy vector as we ambulate: pull, don't push and bow the device. (oops, that slice went a little too deep!) Hack away edgewise at the duct tape articulations, hack away at the insulating mirror layer, hack away at the vestigial tail and its archival pre-tensions. Lilt and stutter with this awkward technique: flash a toothy smile and quickly cut to black.

 

      –where were you when i needed you? you knew what was at stake.

 

5:03, 5:02, 5:01 . . .

 

Con-fessional: I\'ve Been Here Before

Sean Smith and Cara Spooner
A Movement Topology from "2D" to "3D" Space
process workshop
November 17, 2011

 

Step off the seasick escalator. Grab the forked knife once again. Though the cut to black layer has been torn open in many places, it clings to us still, wrapping silence around us with a thick darkened film. We pull and pull at the stretchy material and fluid ambulates everywhere from our grip. A crimson motor oil drips from the generator, but the reaction is nearly critical and the machine need only hold fast for a few more seconds to reach the world record.

Wings swing wildly, the lilting is flailing, furiously railing, and still we bipedal the backbitten rhythm. Swivel body, swing knife, to black skin stretched taut. Sharp edge bounces back off of surface intension, harmless, elastic, our effort for naught. Swing again and again, there's no time left for thought . . .

 

0:22, 0:21, 0:20 . . .

 

Step to the stomp to the rhythm to the moment, everywhere . . .
Scrapplets of programming lie scattered, here and there . . .

 

0:10, 0:09, 0:08 . . .

 

Panting and sweating, becoming-human no doubt . . .
Caught in the gaze, we seek a way out . . .

 

0:03, 0:02, 0:01 . . .

 

Ones and zeroes: once again, perhaps finally, we return to lines and circles. Yes or no, on or off, tests and switches proliferate — the irreducible binary coding that seeks to envelop us all.

 

      –running out of time.

      –Running into Time!! ^_^

 

Department of Biological Flow
ICQ (Inverted Cubofuturist Query)
2012
performance
(youtube video - 27:02)

(please feel free to take a piece of the performance home with you.)

 

 

0:00, 0:00, 0:00 . . .

 

The silence is deafening . . .

 

0:00, 0:00, 0:00 . . .

 

"Each 'plateau' is an orchestration of crashing bricks extracted from a variety of disciplinary edifices. They carry traces of their former emplacement, which give them a spin defining the arc of their vector. The vectors are meant to converge at a volatile juncture, but one that is sustained, as an open equilibrium of moving parts each with its own trajectory. The word 'plateau' comes from an essay by Gregory Bateson on Balinese culture, in which he found a libidinal economy quite different from the West's orgasmic orientation. In Deleuze and Guattari, a plateau is reached when circumstances combine to bring an activity to a pitch of intensity that is not automatically dissipated in a climax. The heightening of energies is sustained long enough to leave a kind of afterimage of its dynamism that can be reactivated or injected into other activities, creating a fabric of intensive states between which any number of connecting routes could exist." (Brian Massumi)

 

0:00, 0:00, 0:00 . . .

 

Cut to static (in motion) . . .

 

0:00, 0:00, 0:00 . . .

 

NOISE.

 

Con-fessional: Intense Zero

 

Zero.

A pregnant 0:00, to be certain — ("there are always two, even when you perceive one, connected) — analog, ripe and bursting at the stitches with intens–

 

the show opens, a tiny slitscan portal to 2046 appears in the distance.

herniation

spinal disc herniation, courtesy of wikipedia

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
i got 99 problems but a twitch ain't one.
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

physiology and kinetics as politics? sensing body to body politic?

the rupture of a hydraulic system (nucleus pulposus) devastatingly cripples an electricity-based information network (spinal nerve). the amount of force applied need not be excessive — in fact, very little may do the trick — but rather must be strategically levered at a key point of weakness. trauma ensues. structures overreact to compensate and stabilize the trauma, deforming the system in the process. broader relations are compromised and reshaped around this 'choreographic moment'.

herniation as rupture as program of skin tectonics.

perhaps anthropocentric . . . . . . . . perhaps not.

- - -

"finally, it is true of the hydraulic model, for it is certain that the State itself needs a hydraulic science. but it needs it in a very different form, because the State needs to subordinate hydraulic force to conduits, pipes, embankments, which prevent turbulence, which constrain movement to go from one point to another, and space itself to be striated and measured, which makes the fluid depend on the solid, and flows proceed by parallel, laminar layers. the hydraulic model of nomad science and the war machine, on the other hand, consists in being distributed by turbulence across a smooth space, in producing a movement that holds space and simultaneously affects all of its points, instead of being held by space in a local movement from one specified point to another."

(gilles deleuze and félix guattari, a thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, p.363)

- - -

"there is nothing in knowledge which has not been first in the entire body, whose gestural metamorphoses, mobile postures, very evolution imitate all that surrounds it."

(michel serres, variations on the body, p.70)

posture, gesture, interface

Courtesy of EA Sports

Posture should be considered gesture at its most molecular level.

Thrownness, or the Zone of the Artwork

Courtesy of Jackson Pollock

Through the drips and flips of his painting technique, Jackson Pollock removes touch from his process — the touch of the arm+hand+brush against the canvas — but this is not to suggest a disappearance of the tactile. Though Pollock moves away from the plane of the rectangular frame, he is still connected to the work proper by the trajectories and fluid dynamics of paint falling to the surface. As such, it is his gesture that comes to the forefront of the work — the whole movement of the painterly body as it expressively sends coloured pigment to the canvas.

We stay in America™ but move from abstract expressionism to baseball. Here, the strike zone constitutes the canvas upon which the pitcher crafts his athletic artwork. Fastball, curveball, changeup, slider are each part of the process, with the knuckleball perhaps most closely approximating the gesture of Pollock's drip technique. Each pitch in the zone counts as a marker of success on the scorecard: when the pitcher most expresses virtuosity he is said to be painting the corners; at other times he is just outside. But a pitch on or off the canvas is not simply a matter of success or failure, for being outside the zone can sometimes be considered a strategic move.

Courtesy of Sportvision

As the baseball catcher will point out, it can be advantageous to spend a certain allocation of gestures in such a way as they are not to hit the canvas; that is, to call for balls to be thrown out of the strike zone so as to modulate the posture of the opposing hitter and throw him off balance. She cannot make such a strategic decision too often, however, since four balls equals a walk and the beginning of the run production process for the offensive team. Further, the pitcher's skill is such that a particular called pitch will not be executed with true delivery every time, and balls called by the umpire will occur. While gesture is where athletic poiesis may be located, the game is still played in the frame.

Of course he and she can as easily be she and he (and everything in between). The point is not so much the singular biological body that performs the role of catcher, but rather the catcher's affective modulation of pitching, hitting and adjudicating bodies through a proximity of flesh resonance that we have come to identify as the feminine — expressed in the signal of the called pitch. Ronell's figure of the switchboard operator looms present in this context, though the linguistic signals of telecommunication have been replaced, at least in part, by a more subtle consideration of co-resonance with these three other performing bodies.

Fastball

This is not to deny the catcher a body of her own. For she feels the game in her body: the aching rotator cuff is a lifetime of throws to pick off a doubting runner at second; the lump from a roughly healed clavicle the ossiferous knot archiving the collision from a stand taken at home plate; the deep stiffness in both knees signifying the cyborgian gesture of the positional crouch as it makes minor adjustments in tango with the hitter at the plate. Her embodiment stands as both a fleshy, visceral living-through of every inning played and practice pitch thrown, as well as an incomplete archive of these switchboard modulations. Pain remembers pain, after all.

Courtesy of Namuth and Pollock

Pollock teaches baseball that the poiesis of the thrown ball remains in the gesture itself, rather than any archive or record of the work (and its subsequent capture by econometric modeling). In turn, baseball perhaps suggests to Pollock that the artwork consists not just of those splatters and drips of paint that eventually find their way onto the canvas, but also those that miss the zone completely. It suggests that these are not errors for the artist, nor wasted pigment, but rather strategic omissions from the act of inscribing, manifest with each gesture as an abstract expression of affective choice from the embodied memory of thousands of like movements. As such, they should be understood as part of the total artwork.

But who is Jackson Pollock's catcher? Is it Pollock himself? Is it the work of art? Is it Lee Krasner? Peggy Guggenheim and the art market? An open-ended relation? Is it Dasein?

Is this why Pollock was allegedly so rattled by Hans Namuth's documentary Jackson Pollock 51, in which the photographer captured the gestural process of Pollock's technique by shooting up through a clear pane of glass? That in staring through the zone of the artwork, Pollock's catcher-switch was revealed to himself as the archive of the archive, visibly apparent as the technological gaze of the movie camera?

(happy birthday to the switch, and many thanks for calling a good game)

Pixel to Pellicule to Projection

For my own part, I will consider myself content with my work if, in attempting to locate the place and theme of testimony, I have erected some signposts allowing future cartographers of the new ethical territory to orient themselves.

— Giorgio Agamben


(part three of a three-part series: see also pixel and pixel to pellicule)

Pellicule

Given a spectacle as lavish and complex as the Opening Ceremonies of an Olympic Games, it can be difficult to justify the isolation of one particular component as being more worthy of attention than the rest. Indeed, in the case of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and its Opening Ceremonies the politics of identity also merit close consideration, particularly as they concern the representation of Canada's indigenous peoples, the varied Olympic sporting nationalisms, and the recently deceased Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

That said, however, this essay will isolate and question a different component of the integumentary function during the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies, namely the white ponchos worn by nearly every each spectator in attendance. Though Vancouver was plagued by mild temperatures and rain in the days preceding the Games, the ponchos on hand were not there to protect spectators from the elements — indeed, these were the first fully indoor Opening Ceremonies. Rather, they were used as the screen on which the purveyors of sporting spectacle projected various images to mark the Olympic Games' opening.

At the Vancouver Olympics we witnessed yet another flip in the topology of discipline, spectacle and control — that is to say, in the topology of contemporary politics. No longer the disciplinary grid of the pixelated card stunt, no longer the undulating wave derived from the grid's discrete sequential logic, subjectivity in the stadium seats has mutated once again. The projection of Olympism onto the screen of ponchos completely smoothed the striations of the enclosed stadium layout, creating from their disciplinary subjects the unity of a single skin.

Subjective skin

In Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, painted on the front altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, there is a detail of the fresco in which Saint Bartholomew holds a rough knife in his right hand and his own flayed skin in the left. Bartholomew's gesture is at once a turn toward the Lord and a recoil from His presence. And of particular interest to this essay, the skin he holds in his left hand is meant to be a portrait Michelangelo painted of himself.

Sistine Chapel (Detail)

michelangelo
the last judgment (detail)
1537-1541

Scholarship has varied about what Michelangelo intended by introducing his self-portrait into the skin of Saint Bartholomew. The violent flaying of the skin, both an act of homage to the Lord and a punishment for his refusal to endorse paganism. The knife wielded by Bartholomew himself. All variables that complexify the "intent" of the artist, one from so many centuries ago who represents a story that originates centuries earlier.

It matters little to our present discussion which interpretation of Michelangelo's intent is the "correct" one. Instead, we draw our attention to the fact that in the time passed since the mid-sixteenth century, the "knowledge" that Saint Bartholomew's skin bore a self-portrait of Michelangelo was known, "forgotten" for centuries, and then "rediscovered" by the Italian physician Francesco La Cava. We draw our attention to the fact that a primarily oral tradition (knowledge of Michelangelo's self-portrait) was rendered extinct — before its eventual rekindling by the physician's visual capacity. We draw our attention to the very fact that a collective audience could imagine the artist representing his subjectivity by inscribing or revisioning a skin that was already known as belonging to someone else.

It is the American art critic and historian Leo Steinberg who questions the lengthy interval between those eras that understood Saint Bartholomew's flayed skin as portraying Michelangelo himself. Why this temporal gap or disconnect? Why was it a physician, La Cava, who "rediscovered" the self-portrait? Was it simply, as Steinberg suggests, that as a physician he was immune to the discursive boundaries of art orthodoxy and thus more free to discover?

Or can we resist this simple negation and suggest that as a physician La Cava was likely already aware of the body's medicalization via technical imaging processes? Aware that it was the gestural moving body that was captured by the varied forms of kinematic visioning? Or that the cinema constituted a plastic art and science of the skin (pellicule) long before such techniques moved from the flat surface to the contoured body? That the "rediscovery" of Michelangelo's self-portrait entered art discourse in 1925, scant decades after the emergence of popular cinema in many areas of the world, is perhaps not surprising.

Surgery

It is said the mark of a good plastic surgeon is that one cannot view scar tissue artefacts from the incising, folding and stitching of a subject's skin, at least given the sufficient focal distance from which one is to make such a consideration. We can remark, then, on the skilled surgeons of spectacle who so neatly sewed together the ponchoed pellicules in the stands of Vancouver Olympic Stadium: when viewed from the perspective of the television camera, or indeed, from the other side of the stadium, the skin appeared whole and relatively unmarked — a touch weathered, perhaps, but certainly bearing little overt evidence of scarring to its surface.

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

We might suggest it is Pointillism updated for the current technological age: no longer the round dot of the point nor the square of the pixel, but the irregularly bounded figure that is the polygon, multiplied and (texture) mapped together to create the screen. It is the logic of volumetric striation and the sports videogame avatar: a large set of differential polygon shapes stitched together that reduce to the flat plane of television those elements we most consider gestural.

As the gestural is captured by the skin's surface orientation we shift our focus to that which has been projected onto the screen, namely, icons representing various Olympic sports and flags representing the competing nations. In other words, those fantasies of sporting inclusion and fraternal nationalism we collectively understand as "Olympian," discursively inscribed onto the screen as necessarily belonging to particular sports or to the nation-state form of political sovereignty.

We noted earlier that sport is one arena in which the supposed decline of the nation-state posited by Hardt and Negri's Empire thesis has not been confirmed. To the contrary, it is the vigor with which nation-versus-nation sporting competition continues to resonate that obscures those other actors in sport's imperial meshwork and their varied conjunctures with one another. Might we even suggest that sport offers the opportunity for the excesses of the imperial system — that is, for the nationalist tensions that arise as neoliberal capital flows smoothly across borders — to be safely dissipated via the differential flows of television signals and allow for the overall health of the machine-organism?

The hygienic theatre

It is Virilio who suggests that those who are absent from the stadium are always right. But Baudrillard goes further: as mentioned earlier, the lesson he draws from the Heysel disaster is that the spectators need to be purged from the stadium in favour of the strictly televisual. John Bale locates in this a fulfillment of his "surgical" model of the sportscape, a sterile space free of spectators and in which only the athletic operations themselves are conducted on the stadium floor. Indeed, given the raw ponchoed skins that have just so recently been stitched together for the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies, one would hope the hygienic standards of the stadium approach those of the surgical clinic.

To illustrate this hygienic quality we shall take a slight detour to explore the glow sticks that were also handed out to each spectator at the stadium. Given the high definition capability of television and the high resolution of the spectator screen, the glow sticks provided to each audience member should be understood as much smaller objects than the cards of the pixel stunt, and thus fulfilling a quite different function. While the cards of the pixelated stunt were engineered to communicate a particular signal, the glow sticks serve to reintroduce noise to the high definition display of digital signal, adding a lushness not unlike that which a musician might engineer into a contemporary digital recording with the artefacts of vinyl static.

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

This lushness is visible both by those present at the stadium and those watching at home, which is not to suggest that these become identical subject positions. The spectator at home exists as a function of the eye, which is to say as a function of both the camera eye and the television producer's eye. This functions as either a sort of real-time Cubism in which multiple simultaneous viewpoints are filtered to the singular perspective of the final work, or as a more scripted logistics of perception that features pre-calculated camera sightlines corresponding to the action below.

Recall that Benjamin likened the cameraman to the surgeon, who "greatly diminishes the distance between himself and the patient by penetrating into the patient’s body, and increases it but little by the caution with which his hand moves among the organs." The warm ambience of the glowstick noise obscures the hygienic sterility in which digital spectacle is produced for the spectator at home.

The zone

The spectator at the stadium, on the other hand, exists in a middle zone as both subject and object of this particular drama, the hygiene of digital also modulating this multiple relationality. Kittler's dramatic introduction to Gramophone, Film, Typewriter offers us a clue as to the particular reason why:

Before the end, something is coming to an end. The general digitization of channels and information erases the differences among individual media. Sound and image, voice and text are reduced to surface effects, known to consumers as interface. Sense and the senses turn into eyewash. Their media-produced glamor will survive for an interim as a by-product of strategic programs. Inside the computers themselves everything becomes a number: quantity without image, sound, or voice. And once optical fiber networks turn formerly distinct data flows into a standardized series of digitized numbers, any medium can be translated into any other. With numbers, everything goes. Modulation, transformation, synchronization; delay, storage, transposition; scrambling, scanning, mapping — a total media link on a digital base will erase the very concept of medium. Instead of wiring people and technologies, absolute knowledge will run as an endless loop (p.1).

During the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies, the loop of absolute knowledge in question ran between the space of the stadium and the space of the home, which begs a question. If synthetic means of perception today rely almost wholly on digital forms of recording, inscription, encoding, transmission and storage, then why does the bank of spectators, this screen onto which the Opening Ceremonies were projected, still need to be present? Why can't the images of the national flags and the sporting icons — and indeed, the spectators themselves — be superimposed on the television screen (as with a graphic overlay that displays statistics), or digitally integrated into the "real" of the stadium, (as with football's first down line)? If, as Baudrillard and Virilio suggest, it is those at home watching who are always right, why is it that the stadium spectators are still required?

One of the lessons we learned from the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and its Opening Ceremonies was precisely such an indistinction between actual and synthetic spaces, most notably manifest in the fireworks display that exploded both in gunpowdered form at Beijing National Stadium and as a digital simulation on telescreens worldwide. This optical doubling was meant to ensure that televisual perception remained pristine in the event that problems befell the live fireworks display — namely, low visibility due to purportedly poor air quality. Once again, those absent from the stadium appeared to be right.

It could be said that the stadium spectators are still required because the revenues they bring from ticket sales, concessions, and sponsor imprints are desirable to the profit-maximizing actors who constitute Sporting Empire. But these are risky revenues. Aggregating a live audience post-9/11 is risky, and thus costly: the Vancouver Organizing Committee spent $950 million on the varied security measures employed during the Games. That the risk is borne at all speaks to a shift from State sovereignty and its right to kill, which today becomes biopolitics and its "primary objective to transform the care of life and the biological as such into the concern of State power" (Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz, p.155). An expense of nearly a billion dollars to secure territory for a two-week sporting competition gives this biopolitical "care of life" a rapid quantitative grounding.

The care of biological life as a security matter is risky, yes, but from a different perspective so is the signal coming from the image-factory that is the sports stadium. The Opening Ceremonies of an Olympic Games, in particular, exist among the most elaborately constructed spectacles in human history, both at the stadium and on television. An entire choreography of perception to capture the dazzling displays in the building for television, admitting to its own presence as infrequently as possible. The actors on the floor are relatively scripted, but what about the spectator-subjects in the stands? How can we be certain they will not compromise the signal in any way? What if someone engineered the contagion of a Wave?

Are these revenues really worth the risk?

Given the scripted choreography of perception produced in Hollywood today, one presumes the CGI rendering capabilities are sophisticated enough to display either a screen of projected imagery or a crowd of stadium spectators. But Kittler's observation about the shift to digitality proves key. If we can question the simulation of fireworks, national flags, sports icons and spectators, certainly we can question the simulation of the event itself, erasing the very concept of the stadium? Is this not the lesson of sports videogames and their rapidly "improving" binary-coded artificial intelligence engines?

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

That the sporting event actually exists is the first layer in the carefully constructed apparatus of truth that is contemporary televised sport. This truth possesses a digital representation, inscription, transmission and storage, but what it wants is its legitimation, which it finds in the flesh relation of those analog bodies located at either end of the communication channel and its endless loop (cf. Massumi, "On the Superiority of the Analog"). It is the spectator at the stadium who provides this fleshy legitimation to the televiewer at home, a last gasp for real space to roar in a relation dominated by real time.

For one fails to understand the roar of the stadium crowd if one considers it simply an acoustic phenomenon. As Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht suggests, it is rather "a physical point of self-reference through which the crowd perceives and transforms itself into one unified body" (In Praise of Athletic Beauty, p.215). It is an expression of intensity made manifest, made corporeal: the linguistic signifiers of aural outpouring, yes, but also the gestural qualities of the roaring act and the flesh resonance with both the thousands of others in attendance and those who perform on the stadium floor.

In fact, there need not even exist a roaring crowd for there to be a comparable level of intensity perceived by those in attendance. A stillness — an anticipation of what is to come — may resonate with the flesh in a fashion quite as intense as the great roar. We might say there is a buzz in the air, the quiet hum of voices that gives the pregnant silence its lush quality. We might say one could cut the tension with a knife, perhaps the most damning indictment of the tangibility of flesh's non-tangibility, of the relational weaves that develop their tensility with each passing moment of anticipation, and of the latent urge to sever these fibres lest one be consumed by the intensity of their relation.

Perversion, inversion

In a perversion of Foucault's analysis of the panopticon, the disciplining of the spectator becomes that which contributes to the production of sporting spectacle itself. Anyone may step into the guard tower, yes, and observe those in the partitions of competition (given sufficient discretionary income, of course), thus participating in the exercise of disciplinary power. But the spectator also becomes among the observed when the vectors of archive and telesthesia are introduced to the production of spectacle: the "guards in the tower" are also seen by the television cameras, surveillance cameras, and cellphone cameras that proliferate in this ludic space. They, too, become Foucauldian "objects of information, never subjects in communication," at least insofar as we are describing communication in its traditional linguistic sense.

Given the always-on digitality of Kittler's new media order, the "guards" themselves become performers in the discursive production of the mediated event and confirm the affective response that the television audience at home is meant to embody. Guarding, as such, comes to mean communicating the very analog fact of having spectated the event, with communication understood as based in flesh resonance and its corresponding gesture.

No matter how sterile the space becomes, the stadium spectator will never be exiled from the surgical theatre in favour of the televiewers back home. So long as the optics of televised spectacle remain perspectival in nature, the vectors of telesthesia will never fully reproduce the volumetric of the stadium spectator. Even if they do somehow, if the optics become volumetric and the avatar can more closely approximate the gestural body of the spectator at home, it remains that the analog resonance of flesh will not have been duplicated. And so the spectator at the stadium becomes the uneasy compromise that sporting Empire must concede in order to give synthetic perception and its audience a grounding and legitimation in the resonance of flesh witnessing.

What is a stadium?

It was suggested earlier that in the stadium we find echoes of Agamben's inquiry into the camp as a form of life governing biopolitics everywhere. While we do not mean to draw an equivalence between the deportees of Auschwitz and high performance athletes, we should draw attention to those structuring principles found in the most extreme version of the camp and how they enter the ludic arena to govern the biopolitics of sport. The enclosure of the stadium, the serialization of spectators and inscription of athletes within, and the topological transformation of the space to police performance enhancing substances and methods all constitute a particular state of exception that we might describe under the broad emerging rubric of lex sportiva. We find additional evidence with the conversion of the stadium space from its role in the production of ludic capital to other purposes during times of warfare, emergency, contagion, or disaster.

Indeed, Agamben himself draws the link between the stadium and the camp-as-form on a few different occasions. In Means Without End: Notes on Politics, he writes:

If this is the case, if the essence of the camp consists in the materialization of the state of exception and in the consequent creation of a space for naked life as such, we will then have to admit to be facing a camp virtually every time that such a structure is created, regardless of the nature of the crimes committed in it and regardless of the denomination and specific topography it might have. The soccer stadium in Bari in which the Italian police temporarily herded Albanian illegal immigrants in 1991 before sending them back to their country, the cycle-racing track in which the Vichy authorities rounded up the Jews before handing them over to the Germans, the refugee camp near the Spanish border where Antonio Machado died in 1939, as well as the zones d'attente in French international airports in which foreigners requesting refugee status are detained will all have to be considered camps (p.42).

To these examples we might also include the Louisiana Superdome during Hurricane Katrina, the Itchioka PoW Camp during World War II, and the local baseball diamonds used as "designated protest zones" or "free speech areas" during political events, among hundreds of others. While these examples highlight the space itself as primary in structuring the biopolitical apparatus, Agamben elsewhere delves further into the relations that produce the subjectivities of the camp. In Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, he writes of the Sonderkommando, a unique group of deportees "responsible for managing the gas chambers and crematoria," and who also occasionally played in soccer matches with the Nazi SS:

[Primo] Levi recalls that a witness, Miklos Nyszli, one of the very few who survived the last "special team" of Auschwitz, recounted that during a "work" break he took part in a soccer match between the SS and representatives of the Sonderkommando. "Other men of the SS and the rest of the squad are present at the game; they take sides, bet, applaud, urge the players on as if, rather than at the gates of hell, the game were taking place on the village green."

This match might strike someone as a brief pause of humanity in the middle of an infinite horror. I, like the witnesses, instead view this match, this moment of normalcy, as the true horror of the camp. For we can perhaps think that the massacres are over — even if here and there they are repeated, not so far away from us. But that match is never over; it continues as if uninterrupted. It is the perfect and eternal cipher of the "gray zone," which knows no time and is in every place (p.25).

What is of note about this gray zone is the space for the third that opens up within the play at hand, the zone of indistinction between guard and deportee on the soccer pitch. If the economic might of the television audience at home serves as the truth of the event for Sporting Empire and its actors in the Opening Ceremonies, do the spectators at the stadium and their complex integration into the spectacle exist in a similar gray zone or third space?

The witness

How do we understand witnessing and flesh resonance in such a gray zone? As Agamben continues in Remnants of Auschwitz:

From this perspective, the meaning of "witness" also becomes transparent, and the three terms that, in Latin, express the idea of testimony all acquire their characteristic physiognomy. If testis designates the witness insofar as he intervenes as a third in a suit between two subjects, and if superstes indicates the one who has fully lived through an experience and can therefore relate it to others, auctor signifies the witness insofar as his testimony always presupposes something — a fact, a thing, a word — that preexists him and whose reality and force must be validated or certified. … Testimony is thus always an act of an "author": it always implies an essential duality in which an insufficiency or incapacity is completed or made valid (p.150).

If what is being presented as the Opening Ceremonies is but the authored spectacular event par excellence, then this last aspect of testimony posited by Agamben becomes problematic for Sporting Empire. Too many authors spoil the text, we might say, or at least challenge its architectural claims to truth and thus the message must be modulated rather than wikified. Intellectual property is at risk, after all. And thus we may better understand the images projected upon those in attendance at Vancouver's Olympic Stadium: the latest technique by which Sporting Empire attempts to neutralize the authorial aspect of witnessing. Skins flayed open, each surgically stitched to the next, the naked life onto which an Olympic self-portrait is inscribed; zoe and the replication of interlocking rings, gesture turned inward from the screen, analog presence and its incomplete translation to the digital.

While the camp endures as a form in which the very issue of humanity is continually at stake, and thus always stands separate from an analysis of sport and its ludic political economy, we may certainly recognize in the stadium, as Agamben himself does, the camp-as-form that differentially constitutes biopolitical spaces everywhere. And yet this "differential" constitution begs the question of specificity. In the particular case of the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies, an event purportedly marked by its diversity — the bright colours of the Parade of Nations, in particular — obscures its very basis in uniformity: what is the specific mechanism that has most of the audience wearing a white poncho to complement those team uniforms marching in down below?

Why are the stadium spectators complicit? Is the requirement to wear the poncho contractually obligated as part of one's ticketed passage into the Opening Ceremonies? Or what about a different scenario, with a poncho strategically available on each chair that was optional to wear upon entering the building? What if one attempted to refuse but then someone else a few seats over strongly suggested that one was in fact expected to wear the garment? Who, precisely, would be "expecting" the poncho to be worn? The event organizers? The panoptic gaze? Or one's fellow assembled spectators?

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

Does one stand defiant in the face of this challenge? Does one refuse the soft program of the mass and explicitly call into question the figure of the spectator-witness? As the animal body is emptied out into the in the networked space of spectacle, does one reduce one's degree of exposure to alterity in order to contain the potential of contagion? In this gray zone, the zone of naked life and spectacular television programming, the zone in which presence trumps absence, the zone in which for the time being real referents still remain, one can only hope that Baudrillard's strategem of hyperconformity was intended as a clever ruse.