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 . . .



"It begins with the mass deportations. 25,000 runners packaged onto a fleet of school buses as neatly as you can say 'logistics'. They are being shipped to another town for processing — 26.2 miles away, to be exact — and yet the overwhelming sense in the air right now is one of optimism. An affirmative energy of nervous dialogue markedly contrasts the monologue of radical dividualization that steers the proceedings. Bright yellow sponsor bags, which hold those personal possessions one hopes will make the return journey, are clutched in every hand. An inversion has taken place: these overmen&women are the new figures of Agamben's camp logic, and yet they couldn't be happier. In some ways, they run for us all."

(Hunter Thompson Blanchot, I'm All In for the Disaster, p.22)

flight of the mecha butterflies


With its lilting and stuttering, consider the (mecha) butterfly as part of an aesthetico-political topology of movement through gesture and language — passing through the free radical, to the busker, the jester, and finally to Paolo Virno's joke, which effectively "changes topics" in conversation and may be considered a form of innovative action in surveillant/spectacular societies dominated by language. In this topological sense, not only are the "logico-linguistic" resources of jokes important (as with Virno), but also the movements of the jester or joker, the gestures and delivery that allow for the topical change to occur (as with the butterfly).


The butterfly is relatively ambivalent to the local striations of anthropocentric territories (city streets, lot plans, the domestic home), save for an interest in those affordances offered by other objects within these striated spaces (flower beds, vegetable gardens, shaded areas). For the butterfly, in this sense, space is always "smooth", or at least its particular attractions and connections are not mapped in gridly fashion: it lilts and stutters from stopping point to stopping point, a nomadic line avant la lettre, but perhaps even more illustrative to us perceptually-conceptually as it moves in its delicate awkwardness volumetrically, lifting the nomadic line off the canvas or the cave wall or the desert route for understanding in other dimensional spaces.


The jester, on the other hand, figures prominently in the medieval court. Offering "witty" counsel to the king or queen through jokes (and other forms of performance), the jester is that one who attempts to provoke a minor shift in perspectival viewpoints — from on high to down low. As the feudal court apparatus is transduced to the even more striated and biunivocal relations of the chess board, serfs and pawns get their due while the jester is left behind. But in tegwar chess, or the societies of control, the rules are modulating with every move. We find the perfect opportunity for the (re)introduction of the jester and performative jokery into the game — a powerful piece on the board so long as it does not seek to enlarge its own image or invest in the credit.