pulse, relay, switch

high five

The ways in volleyball and basketball that hand touches — high fives, low fives, fist bumps, etc. — maintain an energetic and affective flow throughout an athletic context, during play as well as during stoppages: congratulating, rewarding, acknowledging, affirming, but also dissipating sad passions, situational failures, and the like.

The difference between the two is largely structural: volleyball centralizes and ritualizes the hand touches, with all 6 players on the floor coming together after each point for a group exchange that appears quite indifferent to whether a point was scored or surrendered. In basketball, meanwhile, the hand touches are more distributed through the 5-player system as multiple haptic relays and switches, one player high-fiving another one here, another over there, and yet again; the energy staying on the move, diffuse, leaking into defensive transition opportunities and brief game stoppages as an occurrent "computational art" based on physical proximity, tempo, context, and event.


Spurs ball movement

Spurs ball movement

if you want to see a xenointelligence with "affective computational" potential, watch 5 basketball players (or indeed an entire team) when they're in a state of flow with great ball movement.

Desperation Moves


In certain modern team sports there are a number of what we may describe as normative, yet legal, "desperation moves" that the team losing a contest may attempt as time begins to run out — provided the deficit is reasonably surmountable. In hockey, for example, the losing team will pull the goaltender in favour of an extra attacking skater; in basketball, a team will foul deliberately in order to force the other team to immediately shoot free throws; in gridiron football, there is the onside kickoff, etc.

Strategically, we might abstract these three examples as follows: in hockey, given the particular status (and equipment) that characterizes the goaltender, the attempt is to create an asymmetry in the number of attacking skaters and put pressure in the opposing zone. In basketball, constrained as it is by a required player symmetry, the attempt is to dilate the temporal parameters of the game, "extending" it by rapidly fouling and hopefully trading off multiple 1-point shots for 2- or 3-point shots at the other end. Gridiron football is also constrained by symmetry, on the one hand, but does not have regular and rapid turnover of possession either, and thus its attempt with the onside kick is to overload a space — or more precisely, to swarm a proximity.

In each case we witness a malleable, plastic quality — stretching, contracting, spasming — that over enough contests will have a statistically significant ability to turn the tide of victory in the timespaces of zero-sum athletic enclosure.

a new relationship to the law


Technically Speaking


A basketball player gets whistled for a technical foul and a free throw is awarded to the other team as a penalty. Almost always outside the normative range of what constitutes a foul in the game — actually making bodily contact with an athlete on the opposing team — the technical is precisely what it says it is: a technicality that has been broken in the juridical structure that is the basketball league proper, most often a behavioural infraction against what is considered good sportsmanship. Some of these juridical prohibitions are universal across leagues, while some are unique to the league itself.

(Usually in the courts of mainstream civil society, it is one who is declared not guilty who gets off on a technicality. Not so in basketball, in which the technicality is always on, always assigned as a penalty against which there is next to no opportunity for recourse or exoneration.)

A basketball player steps up to the line to shoot the free throw. Though it is meant to be an award or restitution for the technicality that has been broken, it is actually quite a difficult shot. This is because the restitution exists somehow outside the normal context of play: the shooter goes to the line alone while the rest of the players must stand and watch out at midcourt, unlike the regular free throw situation in which players from each team line up in staggered formation along both sides of the painted key to rebound the potentially missed shot.

But there is no rebound to be had with the technicality. Again it exists outside of game play, which is to say it exists outside of the game's historical time. And further, it exists outside of its usual relations: while not having the players line up for a rebound is meant to be less distracting for the shooter, their absence is actually quite viscerally felt, a denuding of the multiple body's co-composition that leaves the one shooting very naked and alone.

So on the one hand a player gets whistled for a technicality, but it is paradoxically the one who has been offended (or their agent) who will face the intensity of exposure in exacting a restitution. And the purportedly cybernetic technique of shooting free throws reveals its limits in turn: it is the messiness and chaos of co-present bodies — even if they are competitors — that lubricates this technical machine towards its successful realization.

Accelerata: Sixteen Theses

The Acceleration Tour

1. Whether or not one understands time as unfolding in a linear fashion is immaterial; what matters is that experience and connectedness unfold along multiple and interweaving time signatures.

2. It is the time signature which produces affects, not time itself.

3. A collective energetics remains unevenly distributed. Nonetheless, its collectiveness always remains impressive, inspiring and humbling.

4. Dehabituated rhythms and changed or differential spatial parameters offer an invitation for novel gestural responses to the artwork.

5. When movement moves its way into the "aesthetic experience" proper, it continues to want to move, this time with the artwork, co-composing with it, contouring and creating with it.

6. It is not so much fatigue that one initially notices upon arrival at an artwork, but rather an interference of rhythms between runner and work, which thereafter gradually begin to harmonize or compromise. These resonances are of immediate interest in an aesthetico-ethical sense.

7. Habit can have unrefined pathways; one of these concerns its tempo.

8. Bodies are not "ideal", and thus neither should goals be. We understand these both in an affirmative sense.

9. The outwardly prosthetic body only makes evident and explicit the co-composition of all bodies.

10. A familiar gesture, machined differently, can be more more useful than a complex gesture known only to a few.

11. We are describing here an unhygienic experience (sweat, snot, traffic, noise, topography). Which is also in some ways to remind that we have been removed from the laboratory.

12. Speed only demands a greater adeptness with contingency and the aesthetics of failure.

13. There are both inner and outer accelerations that need to be considered in developing and evaluating the program.

14. If one seeks to create a nuclear or exponential energy field, one cannot initiate the reaction at maximum capacity. Rather, the intensity must be slowly increased to avoid the risk of rupture in a very real material sense.

15. The event itself is a collective enunciation — of gesture and energy. But so long as we remain bound to the particulars of language and its transmission, this collective enunciation must retain a spoken or written dimension as well. Breath must become metric rather than simply serving to inspire and expire.

16. Theses are exhausted and replenished much like mitochondrial reactors and muscular fibres. To elaborate: they, too, have relative catalytic points, elasticities and failure thresholds in the generation of things. And they, too, may also become fuel or worm food for future becomings . . .