cyborgs, plastic

VP

Breath. When we talk about cyborgs in professional sport, we never talk about the referees who carry whistles in their mouths the entire time to substitute signal for voice: a running-with-the-play, into an optical perception of an infraction and its corresponding sympathetic nervous system response, into a spasm of the lungs and a burst of air expelled through the prosthetic whistle.

SJ

Buffer. LeBron James reverse dunking or hitting a three is a factual event; everything else in the televised NBA game is a narrative event, with the referees being a soft gelatin that connects the two. There is an intermediate or fractal quality to this juridical-political-narrative apparatus, though: note the way that former referee Steve Javie is at the League's centralized replay centre in Seacaucus, NJ, providing a secondary and intermediate gelatin between the narrative event and the referees.

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.

obliques and tramps

oblique

basketball court as oblique function
(inspired by parent et virilio, architecture principe)
2009

 

With the kinaesthetic abstractions in introductory gymnastics mentioned earlier, one might consider these serving as physical-cognitive 'prosthetics' for better understanding one's gestural relation to the unforgiving, constant quality of gravity and its right-angled vertical. The massive rock that is our planet overdetermines our every movement possibility (not to mention our gravitational or resonant qualities in potential between other bodies and objects in the terrestrial sphere); for the young child who is in the middle of a becoming-gravitational — in the sense of a living continuum from lying down to crawling to walking to more complex motor skills — these prosthetics are key supports for navigating this overdeterming force-relation. In a machinic-geometrical sense, these often take the form of inclined planes sutured in connexion to other elements of the abstracted apparatus.

But let us not forget here Paul Virilio and Claude Parent's work with Architecture Principe on the inclined plane, with which they hoped to create an "oblique function" that might destabilize the lived, proprioception of orthogonal or rectilinear perception and experience:

"With the orthogonal plane, the flat plane, as in the entire history of architecture, there is no difference between making one movement or another. On an inclined plane, climbing and descending are radically different; but climbing diagonally or descending diagonally are different again; and walking laterally is different as well. Every dimension, every direction of space becomes a modification of the body." (Virilio, Crepuscular Dawn, p.36).

oblique

"The advantage of the oblique is that you can choose what you want, whereas with the orthogonal, or with Le Corbusier, the right angle is always straight and up. Architecture Principe was based on breaking the orthogonal in every way. It no longer accepted the tyranny of the right angle. Entering into topology — you can say into 'the fold,' even if Gilles Deleuze had not yet written his essay on the baroque at the time — we did a lot of work on it. We had a lot of choices to play with, but they were dependent upon the experiment" (p.40).

While the oblique function is also a form of abstraction, as with the gymnastic prosthetics mentioned above, the qualities of the two abstractions are different in notable ways. For example, in gymnastics the inclined plane serves to reduce or mitigate accidence, while in the case of the oblique function it serves to introduce accidental potentials. While Parent and Virilio appear to imagine an (ableist?) oblique function in which everyone is predominantly walking, gymnastics at this elementary stage of skill acquisition often deals with a wider spectrum of gestures, including crawling, somersaulting, and dismounting. That these gymnastic prosthetics are cushioned and floppy to various degrees — ie. fuzzy — further speaks to this gestural kinaesthetic relation of a somewhat precarious quality, that of the young toddler still coming to understand gravity and the body.

Perhaps the most important difference between the two concerns the line taken within the inclined plane: in the gymnastics example above the line taken by the athlete is a vertical one in co-composition with the y/z-axes of gravitational force — which is to say, a decelerative line. The oblique function as understood by Parent and Virilio, by contrast, is intended to co-compose with, across, and diagonal to the gravitational force line — which is to say, transversally accelerative.

tramp

But even this transversal approach by Virilio and Parent is limited, a special case of Euclidean space wrought upon the erect body — derivative. To reconsider this in more radical terms, while the inclined plane of the oblique function attempts to offer a destabilization of the gravitational orientation for the land-based interstellar world, a trampoline reintegrates this function, offering a more aquatic destabilization of the gravitational vertical in comparable fashion. An architecture (or architectonics) completely dedicated to these elastic surfaces thus opens the calculus of the fold (particularly when walking) into vestibular dynamism and the oceanic — which is to say, into jerkism.

kinaesthetic abstraction

gym abstraction

The degree of high-level machinic abstraction (geometric patterning, colour blocking, fuzzy boundaries, gravitiational aids) that takes place in the most elementary of motor skill training for gymnastics (think preschool age) is perhaps unrivalled by any other sport — not so much skill breakdown per se (ie. discipline), but a simplexity of body-gesture-machine articulation in which one can actually envision the faintest hints of world-class sport-specific skill being played out in the barest motor intelligences of the new athletic learner.

Put more succinctly: at the level of considering the absolute beginnings of specific and precise motor skills, gymnastics illustrates the degree to which discipline begins in abstraction.

Time-Axis Adjudication

instant replay

Instant replay in professional basketball illustrates the degree to which time-axis manipulation (ie. slow-motion) can distort a gesture and subsequently an adjudication of "intent". What happens as incidental contact through the intermingling of bodies during the course of play at extremely high speeds often appears in extremely slow motion and extremely brief duration of video clip as a deliberate attempt to strike the opponent — as far as the referee ruling is concerned. It is one thing to use instant replay review, in other words, and quite something else to use instant replay in concert with slow-motion capability: in the latter case the manipulation of time in reviewing the video archive thus becomes a manipulation of the juridical-political process.

platonic relations

The notion of "pure" competition is a platonic ideal. All competition is asymmetrical, corrupted and accidental, and hence all sport aspiring to this platonic ideal is also asymmetrical, corrupted and accidental by nature. The violence of sport does not come from these qualities, however, but precisely in their elusive inverse — which is to say, in attempting to police this pure ideology of the ideal.