justice, justus

saskatchewan roughrider quarterback darian durant didn't have one of his best performances in yesterday's grey cup championship game against montreal. he struggled with both his passing and running, and the riders never really developed a sustained rhythm offensively. one could intuit this by simply watching what was unfolding, though the stats overlays seemed to make the same case. durant was not the reason they lost, but he wouldn't have been the reason had they won, either.

down three points late in the game, the riders needed a decent drive to have any opportunity for the tying field goal. facing heavy pressure from a tough alouette blitz, however, the outcome was effectively decided when durant threw the only interception of the game on a desperation heave to avoid being sacked. given his prior performance in the game and the shock to affective intensity that rippled through the collective perception, it would have been very easy to blame durant for the loss — a sort of becoming-goat, if you will.

but colour analyst glen suitor interjected, pointing out that durant was not actually panicking but rather trying to do the "correct" thing and throw the ball out-of-bounds before being sacked. the complementary video replays confirmed precisely that which suitor suggested: a throw that originally appeared ill-advised suddenly became most advisable, despite the failure in execution. such is the ambiguity in the stylish argument.

we might refer to this stylish argument as a discursive exoneration in the public sphere, with durant receiving a symbolic pardon from suitor, or at least an offer of protection against overexposure.

Green Pride

but we wear the identity as well: indeed, we have all paid the price to do so.

each inscribed fan of the first best loser also seeks a discursive exoneration upon re-entering the public sphere from the heterotopias of spectacular battle. though minor characters in this performance, they, too, played their parts well. they, too, face judgment in the court of biological flow.

were you a worthy opponent?
were you treated justly by the authorities?
were you unlucky?

questions of self-discipline, relation, power, law and ritual asked in the corridors and conduits of moving bodies. as with that memory box, the questions are primarily visual. one wonders, however: did the television discourse protect these minor players from overexposure as well?

for the most part, judgment is passed silently.

_____

(for rod murray: superfan.)

Black Star

Courtesy of Wikipedia

It is an odd relationality that constitutes this place we call time. I am always learning something.

Did you know that Telstar was the first satellite to relay a live transatlantic television feed? Did you know that Adidas created the official match balls of the 1970 FIFA World Cup, also named Telstar? Did you know that the black and white panels of the soccer ball were designed such that the ball would be more visible on black-and-white television? Did you know that the Telstar ball is designed in the shape of a truncated icosahedron, topologically transformed by the addition of air? Did you know that the truncated icosahedron also provided the lens configuration used for focusing the explosive shock waves from the detonator of the Fat Man atomic bomb? Did you know that Coleco introduced a videogame console designed to be connected to a black-and-white television, also named Telstar? Did you know that the Coleco Telstar used the AY-3-8500 chip manufactured by General Instrument, which dedicated pin number 21 for its soccer game?

the troubled words of a troubled mind
i try to understand what is eating you

i try to stay awake but it's 58 hours
since that i last slept with you
what are we coming to?
i just don't know anymore

blame it on the black star
blame it on the falling sky
blame it on the satellite that beams me home

(radiohead, "black star")

I didn't know either. It is an odd relationality that constitutes this place we call time.

kode read: the cola wars (sb rmx)

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there's a big upcoming sports event in vancouver!

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"eh! o' canada — go!"

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sit still in your stadium seats and listen.

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"he shoots, he scores!"

Courtesy of kode9, spaceape, and mo stoebe

intertext, hyperdub, replication.
difference and repetition.
meme science.

Courtesy of kode9, spaceape, and mo stoebe

"did you understand?"

Pixel

Card Stunt

The role of the spectator at large scale sporting events is one that has been examined sporadically in critical theory by the likes of Baudrillard, Virilio, Bourdieu, Barthes and others. And in the sport literature, much of the existing work emerges from John Bale and his investigations of the spaces and sites of sporting competition. But one facet of spectator involvement that I do not remember receiving much attention in either domain has to do with the large-scale communication productions involving the spectators themselves holding up sheets of coloured paper to produce some image viewable from a remote perspective. Known as "card stunts," these productions are the spectacular outcome of Bale's developmental model of the modern stadium: each seat equidistant from the next in a neat disciplinary grid of rows and columns that is then conscripted to produce subcomponents of the final pictorial message (see example here).

STAGES

ENVIRONMENT

PERMEABLE BOUNDARIES
WEAK RULES OF EXCLUSION

No spatial limits; uneven terrain; spatial interaction between "players" and "spectators"; diversified land use.

ENCLOSURE

Limits of pitch defined; players segregated from spectators.

PARTITIONING

Embankments, terraces, grandstands; payment for entry; segregation of spectators by social class; start of segregation within crowd; specialized land use.

SURVEILLANCE

Enclosed ground; synthetic pitch and concrete bowl; TV replay screen; total segregation within crowd; panopticism; diversified land use.

RULES OF EXCLUSION STRONG
IMPERMEABLE BOUNDARIES

a four-stage model of the evolution of the modern stadium.
lines refer to possible freedoms of movement for players and spectators.
(from bale, 1993)

In viewing the card stunt unfolding at the stadium one immediately thinks of both Pointillism and its eventual transition to the field of picture elements, or pixels. Indeed, Seurat's famous Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte - 1884 could be understood in terms analogous to the card stunt: an orthogonal view of "non-partitioned spectators" becoming abstracted into coloured points of representation as they watch the leisured pursuits (rowing, sailing) unfold along the river.

Courtesy of Georges Seurat

georges-pierre seurat
un dimanche après-midi à l'île de la grande jatte - 1884
1884-1886
oil on canvas

Paul Virilio appears to be following a similar trajectory in his analysis of twentieth-century media technology. In The Information Bomb he notes:

Extending the dislocation of the figure, which we saw at the beginning of the twentieth century with Cubism, and its disappearance into forms of abstraction, geometric or otherwise, de-localization — the product of the age of the virtual — leads today to an art of interactive feedback between the artist and his/her visitors, along the lines of those infographic paintings which change and metamorphose as you contemplate them, doing so from the particular viewpoint of each of the actors/spectators. Moreover, the decomposition of figures in Pointillism or Divisionism leads today, thanks to fractal geometry, to another type of deconstruction: the dismantling of the space-time of the work.

In the age of the sudden electronic motorization of the artwork, dislocation of forms and de-localization of the art object go hand in hand and accompany the acceleration not in this case of history, but of the reality of the plastic arts. This represents, on the one hand, a questioning of the roles of actor and spectator, and, on the other, an interrogation of the notions of author and viewer. And it is a calling into question of the site of art, after the questioning of the site of the theatrical scene. These are all so many harbingers of an unprecedented change — premonitory signs of the new time scheme within which culture will operate in the era of the emergence of cyberculture (p. 129).

Interestingly, the card stunt predates the personal computer revolution of the 1970s-90s, and thus the popular introduction of computer monitors and pixel resolution from the world of corporate industry and into the home. Instead we must go back earlier, through the era of the Rubik's Cube, through the era of mainframes and computer punch cards, through the era of split-flap displays on clocks and train departure boards, to locate the card stunt in American college football as early as 1910.

In other words, the card stunt predates the introduction of televised sports and therefore must be considered a message system with an audience different from that of the TV spectator at home: it was originally designed for those players, coaches and fans who were present at the stadium. But once the football stadium is connected to the broader apparatus of television and sponsorship capital (and eventually to the jumbotron screen), the problematics of signal production are opened to newly consider the intensified subroutine loop of screen and subject relation.

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

One requires three elements for a card stunt to function successfully: the dissemination of a program code beforehand (the paper handout of instructions stating which card to display at what time); a set grid of stadium seats (the field of resolution) for visual output; and the activation of the program through a coded routine of command prompts.

Of course, the direct human agency involved to trigger the commands and activate the card stunt emerges as a fourth required element to follow the first three, which during the history of college football is a responsibility that has fallen to the cheerleading corps. Given the gendered histories of cheerleading in football, we might inquire into the specific ways that women were involved with triggering these program activation commands. It seems not a stretch to read the figure of the card stunt leader in resonance with both Kittler's figure of the typist and Ronell's figure of the switchboard operator — that is, one (woman) who can both inscribe a new flow of coded data as well as one who can connect an existing flow-in-potential, suggesting further that the history of technotext is always already a feminist one.

Further, if we continue to follow our suggestion that football models the American military-industrial complex in a sort of evolutionary version of chess, then these cheerleading women appear early on to play an important role in coordinating messages of support from the home front to the battle lines. But they are coded messages, and as such are susceptible to being intercepted or hacked by the enemy. This is precisely what occurred in the "Great Rose Bowl Hoax" of 1961: supporters of the California Institute of Technology, frustrated by a lack of visibility relative to Washington, their more famous opponent, pulled a prank in which the coded instructions were switched so that the visual output from the Washington fans ultimately communicated a very different message than the one originally intended.

Great Rose Bowl Hoax

If we can locate the card stunt at the modern stadium as a genealogical precursor to the pixelated bitmap computer display, we might consider the increasingly cramped seat and leg room at the contemporary stadium, then, as both an intensification of its capital productivity and a process toward becoming more high resolution. All surfaces become screens, it appears. And as Agamben notes, following Deleuze, the age of the cinema is also the age of a generalized catastrophe of gestures. If that is the case, can we flip the question of embodiment experienced by the increasingly cramped stadium spectator and ask: what implications do high resolution screen displays have for the human body watching at home today?

archive, intelligence, thought

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You: Reflections on Movement, Relation and Memory

(submitted by sean smith to the intersections 2010 conference in communication and culture at york university)

Street Chess in Amsterdam

In 1966 the Fluxus-influenced artist Yoko Ono presented Play It By Trust, a conceptual work featuring a chess board with two sets of all-white pieces facing each other on a grid of all-white squares. The opponents become indistinguishable from one another in the absence of traditional visual signifiers, and as the hypothetical game progresses the entire binary of militarized competition becomes subject to reconsideration. Using Ono's white chess set as a model I will put the game into play, so to speak, as a means of questioning the interrelated concepts of movement, relation and memory within this ludic space. Drawing primarily on the theory of Deleuze and Guattari, Kittler, Massumi, Manning and Agamben, I will contrast the archive as technical apparatus with a more embodied and intermediated form of collective remembering, as well as explore their implications for political sovereignty in the age of Empire.

Street Chess in Amsterdam

Two passages from Jean Baudrillard:

- from "Beyond Artificial Intelligence: Radicality of Thought," in Impossible Exchange, p. 116:

"Kasparov has on his side the human passion of the challenge; he has an other ranged against him, an opponent. Strictly speaking, Deep Blue has no adversary; it moves within the scope of its own programme. This is a decisive advantage for the human, the advantage of otherness, which is the subtle precondition for play, with its possibilities of decoying, of 'overplaying one's hand', of sacrifice and weakness. The computer, by contrast, is condemned to play at the height of its capabilities."

- from "Deep Blue or the Computer's Melancholia," in Screened Out, p. 163:

"When up against the machine they have themselves programmed (let us not forget that it was men like Kasparov who programmed Deep Blue), human beings can only subtly de-programme themselves, become 'technically incorrect' to stay ahead of the game. They may even have to take over the machine's own place. … This is the only possible strategy: if you become technically correct, you are unfailingly beaten by the machine."

instant karma's gonna get you

On the surface, Yoko Ono's Play It By Trust seems to be a smart and intuitive critique of the simple binary of war-conflict. By painting all of the pieces and squares white and positioning them in the traditional chess game opening formation, she immediately sets up a tension in which we seem to actually be waging war against ourselves. Once an imagined play begins and the pieces commingle (dare we say miscegenate?), they slowly start to lose their identity of standing opposite the other and the game tentatively suggests a metaphor for peace.

In any examination of chess play, however, we cannot just look at matters on the surface. We must admit the contours and perspectives of the volumetric, just as we must admit the unfolding of a particular linear timeframe while play emerges. Imagine this imagined game becoming material — momentarily — and its players using algebraic notation (eg. Nf3) to track the logistics of movement-play on the board, for even in Ono's chess-world the striations of the grid do still exist.

When the coding of the chess game moves almost strictly to the archival databank the pieces and squares cease to possess an "identity" in any traditional sense, save for abstract locational information at discrete moments in time. They do not stand embodied for anything in particular, save the continual generation of the code. As Deleuze would suggest, they have become dividuals.

Since the entire game could be played via notation at this point — which, in fact, is what happens with computer chess — maintaining any relation to Ono's white pieces remains strictly an exercise in sensuality and the act of touching or moving-with in touch. This is the only reason they need remain. Viewed from this perspective, Ono does not show us a peaceful future world in which the binary oppositions of black versus white cease to exist, but rather demonstrates the ultimate uselessness of the material body in its becoming-information. While at a "surface" level seeming to embrace hybridity and one-ness with the other — in the most postmodern, imperial sense put forth by Hardt and Negri — this chess world remains connected, disconnected and otherwise modulated by streams of data, perspectival vision, and the archive.

And so the question we must ask of Yoko Ono stands insistent: is the game being archived? In the contemporary age of "archive fever," is the game being coded, notated, recorded or inscribed, saved, secured — in short, remembered? If there were no hands moving the pieces around the board, but only the pieces collectively moving themselves, would such archiving occur nonetheless — perhaps automatically, as a new form of instant karma?

play it for as long as you can remember
who is your opponent and
who is your own self. (yoko ono)

Or do we refuse the archive? Do we retain tactility? Do we encounter the inevitable confusion once the board becomes more chaotic during middle and endgames? Do we collectively remember and resolve the confusion?

Do we collectively forget and allow certain memories to slip away, or fade to black?

Courtesy of Barbara Fornssler

(thanks to the switch, who is both black and/or white if i remember correctly)