American Pragmatism

oshie

the geometry of the thing couldn't be any more obvious: a rectangle with standardized dimensions and rounded corners; a swath of freshly zambonied ice about half the width of the rink; a puck from dead middle centre ice on a plumb line straight vertical to the goal; a goaltender crouching in the way, also dead centre on this plumb line to victory.

modern sport writ large: sochi olympic men's ice hockey prelims; usa vs. russia; shootout; tj oshie is picked to shoot an unprecedented 6 times and almost single-handedly lifts team usa to the win.

but it's the style of the how which concerns us here, not simply the 4 goals oshie scored (after beating the russian goalie bobrovsky cleanly on all 6 attempts, it should be added). what was so devastating about his approach?

think expressive lines. it begins in the difference from the line oshie takes relative to the plumb vertical, not to mention the more normative lines skated by other players in shootout situations.

the orthodox lines that constitute shootout normativity? think of full-bore speed straight down the plumb line with a little deke at the goalmouth; or one big arc before coming to the strong hand and sniping from the slot; or the dangle that emerges at the end from an otherwise gentle wave of a line; or that crazy mess of a scribbled line when the coach puts in the wrong shooter to win the game — the indecisive line.

(or perhaps putting the brakes on, right before the crease, showering the goldtender in the eyes with a little snowy blindness?)

oshie has taken flight from this expressive normativity in a number of ways. first, the tempo: his opening arc is extremely slow relative to the average shooter, and the pace and shape of the arc somehow suggest a snake charmer conjuring the relational cobra with a tune. second, his use of space: he explores almost the entire width of the freshly flooded ice, even to the point of skating beyond that outer limit a few times (and in the process suffering stumbles to otherwise smooth curves).

oshie

because of the first two, slowness and width of arc, there emerges a third: oshie is able to complete a pretty full two turns of generous and seductive curvature in the opening of his approach, relative to what is usually at most only one. as a result he doesn't reveal his handedness too early to bobrovsky (which is to say his contextual handedness — ie. front or back hand — rather than a general handedness — ie. left or right shot).

these turns are of descending amplitude: there is a gravitational pulling-towards the epicentre that is the goal, oshie generating an intensity with the big slow arcs before the lightning and chaotic finish right at the net. it is vortical: his line expresses a tornado that has bobrovsky as its subject and the goal right behind if the displacement is successful enough ("in other words, a figure in which all the points of space are simultaneously occupied according to laws of frequency or of accumulation, distribution" — d+g, atp, p.489). oshie has shortened the phase of the relational tango between he and bobrovsky using an exponential time signature on skates.

(it is noteworthy that oshie's stumbles from going wide on the opening turn didn't necessarily result in a miss; in fact, they seemed to add even more chaos to the approach, allowing oshie a greater disequilibrium with/in which to play at the goal.)

oshie

so which one of these lines or attempts constitutes oshie's "ideal form", then?

of course it is the topology itself — the biogram — held within a sort of statistical probability of lines that may be expressed. it is all six of the attempts, and more ("a physics of packs, turbulences, 'catastrophes,' and epidemics corresponding to a geometry of war, of the art of war and its machines" — d+g, atp, p.489). it is oshie's ability to manipulate and intensify experiential time, and then quickly read the relational tango that emerges such to avoid formatted routines. and it is the confidence born of inherited results which ultimately state either a functional yes or no — even if you've beaten the goalie cleanly on six and only scored on four.

prophylactic

prophylactic

involution: a phallic object and its envelopment, the relation seemingly turned upon itself; rhythms and waves and particles reconfigured; breath blows the resonant signal that stimulates production.

the only thing that appears to be the same is the prophylactic device.

Technically Speaking

technical

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.

Light Cycle Inscription

spectacle bank

The marathon course is drawn, inscribed within the established grids of an urban core. New barriers are created, temporarily cutting off certain flows (cars, bicycles, pedestrians) in order to facilitate others: a gated conduit for the gaited competitors who will run on this crisp gray morning.

This cut creates a new surface, or perhaps we can say it multiplies surfaces — it is surfacing, actively producing itself in the proliferating striations of the new territory. Perhaps we can say it is for security, or perhaps we can say that security offers the alibi for a folding of spectacle upon itself, the intestinal guts of vectoral capitalism turned outwards as if Lyotard's great ephemeral skin revealing the shit that really makes the machinery slicken.

Glide then, runners: extend your energetics into this libidinal surface as you race to that cloaca called a finish line. The light cycles of sponsorship precede your motorcade at the flanks, both shiny and festering with their spectacular repetition and insatiable appetite. But remember this digestive cookie from Guattari as footstep and breath connect to eyes and stomach: "It's on this level of investments of desire that there are reserves of capacity to express the revolt."

Injection Moulding

injection moulding

We speak often of the relative rigidity of late modern sports, of the hard lines that constitute their disciplinary diagrams and rigorous production of athletic bodies and somewhat statistically-determinate "uncertain" outcomes. We are aware that these lines are in fact legislated as planes and that the sporting space is usually regulated as a volume rather than strictly a spectacular surface.

But it bears remembering that if the stadium is the factory of postmodern sporting production, then it is a certain plasticity which allows one form of assembly to substitute for another on the production line. Put differently, if the NFL is so easily able to transfer production to Wembley Stadium in London, or the FA is likewise able to travel to Washington for production at RFK, it is not only due to a relative congruity or topology between the rectangles that constitute gridiron and association football codes, respectively, but also to certain malleabilities in material and discursive space.

That turfgrass grows sufficiently long for it to be mowed and erase the very "painterly" conditions that govern production in other forms of sporting assembly, for example, is highly relevant to this modularity — an artificial green ecology in the service of a plastic injection moulding called sporting spectacle. And the televisual possibilities of programmed camera angles, intensive lighting, overlay graphics and audio commentary to constitute a coherent and consistent sporting narrative from anywhere in the world only adds to this plastic capability.

Indeed, what is most potentially intractable in this calculation of malleability is the plasticity of the live crowd in attendance at the factory. To what degree can this fleshy thirdness between sporting capital and televisual spectator mediate and suture together the filaments of an experience both synthetically fibrous and viscerally empirical? This is what is at stake in the economic decision to produce or shut down in non-local contexts under the contemporary conditions of plasticity.

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(thank you to amy for reminding me about "craptacular" or substandard production under certain plastic conditions. ;)

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 . . .