sacred iliac flow?

Department of Biological Flow, December 2008:

Once again, an over-reliance on the visual bias stymied attempts to fully get into the flow of the gait surfing exercise. Originally it was suggested that the surfing subject should direct one’s gaze about 45 degrees below horizontal and abstract the focus of the gaze to about 5-6 feet in front of one’s face. But this still made the exercise too visually-oriented: even if the flow of traffic was moving beyond the abstracted focal point, it was enough to stimulate the eye into refocusing, locating and tracking particular moving objects, thereby reducing any sort of dependence on the strictly haptic and proprioceptive aspects of negotiation and navigation.

Instead, Sean suggested to direct the gaze to 75 degrees from horizontal, such that the visual was deferred for as long as possible before encroaching upon the body’s ability to move affectively through the flow. This definitely worked better for track five, but the continual struggle against the visual remained poignant for both participants.

Bows in Eastern Orthodoxy - Courtesy of Wikipedia

different types of bows in eastern orthodoxy (wikipedia)
the initial gait surfing study would have had the head bowed slightly lower than position no.1

Can we understand gait surfing as a bowing and act of reverence to the other-in-flux? Can we suggest that it is an act of gratitude for the relation that allows one to be liquid and surf? Can we consider such bowing to be free (at least right now) of the protocol we find, for example, with a bow to the deity or royal figure? Can we imagine this as an Agambenian gesture, or a "means without end"?

Barb Mocap Wave

The traditional forms of bowing are gestural in quality but are also intensely optic in nature, at least insofar as averting one's gaze denies the optic. Can we further suggest, then, that such a gait surfing bow exists at the threshold between gesture and the optical qualities of language, and as such emerges inherently as an act of politics?

Synchronicity and Failure

It is a well-worn dictum in the sciences that much discovery takes place when mistakes occur and an unplanned result emerges. But the same may be said of artistic inquiry or that nebulous zone of folding between the two that we have referred to as research-creation. Some of this failure has previously been documented on sportsBabel: for example, a failure of internet connectivity that yields to the emergence of imagined architectures; a failure of the body that leads to new insights about skin and electricity; and various failures of language that provided lessons about relationality.

More recently, as part of the Department of Biological Flow project of research-creation, we have encountered a pattern of failures centred around the problem of synchronicity. In our studies as mobile social subjects navigating public and quasi-public corporate spaces we have found achieving synchronicity to be a stumbling block three times, each in different ways. With our first study in the gait surfing series, we were frustrated in our attempts to synchronize MP3 players and create a shared acoustic space for the activity. More recently, during our first kino-gait study we found it very difficult to synchronize multiple cameras on the body to achieve the desired effect of gestural vision. Finally, given that multiple takes were required to simulate the kino-gait concept, there was a difficulty synchronizing the various visual frames in post-production to create the finished video.

seeking a retina
still attached to a person
to validate my excursion.
i'm just another incarnation of you
that's the reason we can move to this in unison
(one self, "fear the labor")

While each of these examples seems quite trivial, it is perhaps precisely because of this quality that they provide us an important lesson: namely, an experiential understanding of the capital-intensive technical infrastructure that is required to effect synchronicity — particularly with regards to perception — on a mass scale.

(Admittedly, the barriers to a wider distribution of said technical ability have dropped dramatically over the past century, as a genealogy from blitzkrieg tank warfare to contemporary flash mob makes abundantly clear. Nonetheless, questions of scalability still exist.)

But it also suggests to us deeper questions of rhythm, resonance, and the potential of the not-quite-synchronous. Put differently, what can relational bodies do when they are just out of sync?

dobf flux002 (kino-gait)

In The Coming Community, the Italian political theorist Giorgio Agamben suggests that "to appropriate the historic transformations of human nature that capitalism wants to limit to the spectacle, to link together image and body in a space where they can no longer be separated … this is the good that humanity must learn how to wrest from commodities in their decline" (p.50).


It is in this context, the inseparable linking together of image and body, that the Department of Biological Flow hosts its second workshop of research-creation, KINO-GAIT, on October 20 at the Lillian H. Smith Library in Toronto from 6-8pm. Please join us!

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twitter: #dobf

Pedagogy of Touch

On Performing the University of Disaster, Part Two

Bond. James Bond.

In the very name is the relational. Bond is the spy who operates in the liminality between smooth and striated, who fluidly shifts identity to meet the parameters of the assignment, who acts as an attractor of potentials. His is a contingent existence, at once strange and familiar, a unity of process and relation. Bondage.


A process philosophy demands that one consider first and foremost the relation. Part-subjects are only thus insofar as they co-emerge with others from a streaming continuity of experience. Or better, not simply streaming but eddying and circling back to recondition the possibilities for becoming, aternally, often far from any conventional understanding of equilibrium.


The Colonel sets up a secret rendezvous in Toronto. A reversal from the movies, the city has an air of exoticism relative to the drabness that is the everyday of cosmopolitan Europe. Fragments of time and space coordinates are passed through various channels to notify and gather agents from the field, multiply redundant yet still requiring individual wit to zone in on the final locale. Glancing around the room I spot 007, over there Agent 99, Homo Generator appears to be wearing a disguise, and somebody whispers something about Bourne. Each looks on the surface to be relatively normal: I wonder what secrets they hold?

fail more better the object reads
better the attempt, embrace, fail
dwell in this craft
write body
touch a moment in that singular-plurality, herein called a failure.

Intelligence has just come in from the strategists at the University of Disaster. As befitting the context, he delivers it with sobriety, grace and aplomb. Or does she? It seems to be hesheheshehe, stereophonically so. From the highest dancing trebles of art to the physically pounding basslines of philosophy, the sounds register to the depths of my body and back again. In other words, both-and. Relation. Process. Massumi+Manning as the catalysis to chaotic, non-linear and networked potential.


Take two people in bed. While sleep is shared need for psychosomatic regeneration, shared sleep is something different altogether. An enclosed space, though not a striated one: there is no line drawn down the middle of the bed separating the bodies into disciplinary partitions, no gaze ensuring the objects of information stay confined to the appropriate area. Rather, a negotiation takes place during the night — for space, for cover, for the presence or absence of touch in the depths of sleep. One might cross the theoretical dividing line in order to contour and caress the body of the other, or one might try to create distance in order to plunge more fully into restfulness. Either way, this negotiation is not spoken, nor even truly conscious, but felt: it is a haptic negotiation of both flesh and skin that continues throughout the night, in greater or lesser form, with the goal of corporeal, psychic and social rejuvenation hopefully balanced come sunrise.

Take three people tending bar. A long, tight space to navigate as one moves from customer to glass to fridge to tap to garnish to till to customer, all the while avoiding the other two. And the demands of capital drive the demands for speed in this space. Serve, quickly, and reap the rewards. One imagines this would create noise in the system, and the newcomer does literally run face-first into the situation. But once a new threshold for perception is reached (stop looking and feel!), speed actually enhances, turning the movements of the three behind the counter into a frenzied ballet as each moves along the length of the bar to pour drinks. Bodies negotiate and cantilever through space in real-time such that maximum reward is pragmatically achieved.

Take multiple people dancing at a club. This is Manning's tango with a live wire stuck in one side, multiplied and radiating rhythmically to every corner of the dancing space. How do bodies become-several within this multiple mass? Once again there is a negotiation, and once again it is silent save for the pounding basslines (philosophy!) that provide rhythm to the exchange. But we are more fully constrained in this case by the volumetric, as each writes or inscribes one's own four dimensions in such a way as to not physically strike fellow dancing bodies, while seductively sharing moments of the flesh with another.

(i take comfort in the laughter of cixous)

Or, finally, flip the terminus and take these three examples in reverse order. Negotiation, approximation, risk. The slightest change in perception can have dramatic consequences for understanding the microsociality of relation.

Relationality - Courtesy of Abigail Simon

the 'ness' survives as perishable object of subjective form.

i know, because i sense it — because i non-sense it.

non-sensuous wave and curl and folding back into upon and under that sense immediate
those eyes on page trailing letter shape,
sense made in your non-sensuousness (did you realize?)

Make no mistake about it, we are describing the state of affairs at the micro-level: microspaces, microsociality, micropolitics. But, as they say, smaller isn't necessarily better. One might think that the microspace would lend itself to be better surveyed by the intelligentsia of this mission, to be better mapped, better controlled. Au contraire, estime Jean-Christophe. A performed cartography suggests a renewed call for psychogeographical techniques that quickly fractalize a neighbourhood in advance of the mission-event: for food, drink, information or aesthetic sustenance.

It might be suggested that the requirement for food to nourish each of our bodies singularly, to keep alive our animal body alone, would offer an experience separate from the bonds of ontogenesis. But this is to fully misunderstand in its many forms the relational nature of food! Its growing, sourcing, preparation, consumption and reflection upon thereafter all constitute a relational experience par excellence. Vital nourishment!

Yet despite the trappings of wealth and style, James Bond doesn't seem to eat. How does he negotiate? I suppose one cannot eat much and still stay as thin as an image. Odd fellow.

Relationality - Courtesy of Barb Fornssler

write a paragraph of sensing body, dwell in this craft
i cannot make para, cannot generate the graph without disruption.
slice into flow, see curves
imaginings are sometimes best left blank. please dwell.

Once again, we say farewell and flip back to the now of the network (this realization is sense made, a point of understanding that is mis/understood as a point, as an end). But a terminus is only so until the tendency produced by it is fed forward to produce another (it feeds forward into your next line, and the next, and the next). Process is always, resolutely, becoming (and the text is less important than that movement in your eye, the hollow glow from screen that dilates the pupil). Or, a coming into touch with. It is always co-emergent, prior to thought, prior to language (i am a dilated pupil…and now so are you).

Word is bond, yo.

(co-written by the colonel and the spy for all those who made the canvas of toronto cryptic.)

A Debriefing

On Performing the University of Disaster, Part One

When one considers the notion of dramatic performance, one is normally drawn immediately to the actor, the one who is capable of shape-shifting identity, the one who infuses a role with a spirit and intelligence and physicality that brings the character to life and makes us believe. But, to borrow from Bachelard, some characters have a destiny of enlargement: they have become bigger than any individual actor who may play the role. These are characters who enact a kind of meta-performance, who perform themselves at the moment the actor is also performing the character into life.

James Bond is such a character. Savvy, sexy, smart, Bond performs a smouldering masculinity in the name of Queen Mother and world stability, in the name of State and Empire. But he also performs the role of himself as spy in both its libidinal and strategic forms. Most important to the latter is the role of translator, fluently switching from English to French to Italian to German to Russian and perhaps Chinese. He switches from tuxedoed gentleman to bloodied rogue. He is a maker of deals, an agent, and secretly so. He knows how to exist within a matrix of surveillance and also how to escape its gaze, how to find smooth, dark space within which to maneuver in an ethical fashion uniquely his.

He infects me with his style.

So does Paul Virilio, the theorist of speed. His style infuses all of his thought, his practice a form of rapid writing that returns to the same themes over and over again, full of wordplay, undulating, ripe with repetition and difference. He paints in broad strokes — the stained glass artist with his painted light — to understand with vision and passion rather than with a determined clinical pursuit for "truth".

I am in shared space with this theorist of the vision machine. Sit as far away as possible and gaze. Remix the perspectives of Quattrocento, Panopticon and Photograph into pedagogical opportunity. Maintain a line of sight at all times — logistics of perception! — and take the measure of the man.

Make eye contact.

For a supposed pessimist of technology, to have such warmth and optimism and energy! For such a grave theoretical position, to live a politics both ludic and joyful! For one so weathered by experience, to invest his whole mind and body in the performance of thought!

Everyone performs at the University of Disaster. Homo Generator plays a lead role, the agent provocateur, challenging Virilio, challenging the translators, challenging the audience, poking relations and prodding relationships, dragging students off the street to spend precious minutes longer with the master, l'un des astres. Others play different roles, questioning, answering, listening, negotiating. They perform potluck-style, through food and drink and fashion and music. They perform through love and like and theory.

Everyone performs.

As they perform for others, they are themselves performed for, this co-emergence of the network as different to each person as there are people in attendance. Power laws of face time, smiles and discourse. Attractions of mind and body rekindled and kindled anew. Asymmetrical to be sure, but one hopes not overly so.

This group or community is a pregnant number, swelling from one to two to several to full complement. Afterward, as the seminar ends and the hangovers subside and the train rides begin, it similarly recedes to several to two to one. An intimacy of engagement and disengagement. A micropolitics of community emerging from holey to smooth space and back again.
LikeSean Smith likes this.
But the narrative is only partly complete. Disengaging intimately with friends at Montparnasse, our number is five to enter the pedestrian throngs of Paris, home of Napoleon and Picasso and de Gaulle and French Theory. We are Space Invaders. Coming from the sleepy seaside community of La Rochelle we are jacked into the hum and throb, the hic et nunc of Parisien life.


Jean-Christophe is ill and burdened with an impending thesis (closed document!) and is unable to join us save for social time on a terrace or over the dinner table. But he intimately engages nonetheless, creating a space for us, sending us to a mixtape of neighbourhoods and locations around the city: Centre Pompidou, Montmartre, Palais de Tokyo, Sorbonne, Clichy; bookstores and restaurants and cafes; by foot or train or image.

He is also a performer in this production, playing the role of Paris, or at least living his theory in the sense of performed cartography, only some of which formally intersects with maps (Metro stations, tourist maps of city arrondissements, gallery diagrams), the rest of which is an embodiment of lived experience (the walking, mobile, social subject). In this we see the affect of the nomad at a moment of intersection with the cartographic form of the state apparatus, a moment freely entered into by each one of our several.

There is no on-off for this pedagogical experience and its intensity. Rather, the tide subsides and we pass through a threshold, the switch point of which occurs as one walks through the door, solitary, belongings in all senses of the word carried on the body to re-enter the conduits of public transit and state biological flow. This is a gradual becoming: we are already disengaging via the network before we depart, and we continually re-engage via the network after leaving. But a flip has taken place, like a moebius strip. Here and now have become now and here, our stereoreality reversed. We surf this flip of moebius strip at the break points of holey space on our return to the state, the nomads with whom we have just taken flight beginning their slow fade to network black.

They will be back, however. They will be here once again.

A debriefing takes place upon my return. Colonel Fornssler handles the duties. Intelligence to be passed to the strategic minds at the University of Disaster, no doubt. Techniques of the military apparatus reappropriated, deterritorialized. I'm exhausted, but Switch is relentless in this performance of the play's final character, that of State.

Babbling. Babeling. Returning to the notebook. What do you recall from your mission, Brown?

Scopolamine or tetrahydrocannabinol? I tell all.

Or do I?

* * *


Whispering through the network, she names me Spy. I perform thusly.

(for the stereoscopic several of la rochelle 2009, those present in space and/or time)

A Springtime Love Letter to RECL 4P21


Don't wait to be told what to do, how to share information, how to think!

Thank you for the invitation, but I shall decline. Too much surveillance already, no? ;)

Good work. You're getting it.