Proposition for an Exploded Foosball Table

Exploded Foosball - Photos Courtesy of Laura Cull and Pia Ednie-Brown

proposition for an exploded foosball table
department of biological flow
+ generating the impossible

july 2011

Process is transduced back from the open expanses of rural thought to the gridly confines of the city. The artists create a small football pitch within the space least populated by trees (though there were still several). Each player is connected to another by woven wicker fingercuffs. The ball is a gift to the community, processed, remixed and retransmitted. As if rupturing the heavy striations of the foosball table, the artists begin a game of fingercuff soccer.

It is probably best that the game is postponed from the rural camp space of openness to the more highly-coded space of the city, because both (modern) sport and the city exist primarily as expressions of rule sets which code the flow of bodies in motion. Neither team wears uniforms.

Rules

One of the interesting characteristics of this particular community of people is that each of its members to some degree challenge all rules. Every constraint given exists for them as a condition of possibility — if only it could be turned just so, or perhaps that way instead. For the most part, this is a community of experimentation always operating with/in linguistic rule systems insofar as they offer affordances of potential.

And yet in this quasi-sporting context (what Massumi would refer to as a proto-sport) we found it interesting that the impetus to challenge and invert was subdued in favour of more rigorously following cognate rule sets of familiarity — "am I allowed to do this?" A geography of Foucauldian docility (partially) slipped on like a soccer jersey. As the game began and the bodies started moving, however, this preoccupation with rules relaxed in favour of the more usual topology of experimentation.

Exploded Foosball - Photos Courtesy of Laura Cull and Pia Ednie-Brown

Gesture

The basic gesture of soccer is simple, both conceptually and in practice: kick the ball, usually toward the other goal. All other skills in the sport derive from this basic gesture (which you could then spend a lifetime learning to do well). Even so, kicking the ball is certainly not as simple as making contact with one's foot in the forward direction: the entire trunk of the body, arms and head coordinate to execute the kick, often at a vector just slightly offset from perpendicular. The body comes around the ball, so to speak, in order to kick it forward with more control.

Given the play of replicated or hybrid foosball bodies in the game, however, gesture simultaneously became a multiplicity as well as more constrained in a perpendicular sense. Put simply, with the fingercuffs on it was very difficult to kick in any way but straight forward with one's toe. Force channeled forward at all times, even if it was a bastardized "forward". Kicking with many legs is a skill that could certainly be improved by the stylish foosball player, but with experiments following so soon after being exploded it was the awkwardness of gesture (the stutter?) that proved most interesting.

Swarms followed the ball wherever it went on the pitch. The goal seemed important for everyone, some more than others. This community of artists, so soft in the rural setting of thought, collectively competed with aggression and abandon. There were aches and pains and even a minor injury.

(You know it was a Deleuzian soccer game when the only "minor" injury involved someone getting kicked in the "face" with a "part-subject" … har har …)

Exploded Foosball - Photos Courtesy of Laura Cull and Pia Ednie-Brown

Emergent conditions

As mentioned earlier, once the initial preoccupation with following the rules ceded to a more general competitive play and transduction of the field of potential, there were several interesting conditions of possibility which emerged. Some involved a collective notification of a new rule, while others a more subtle (or subterfuged?) renegotiation — each a particular outcome of style.

Examples of the former include scoring systems in which teams lost a point for scoring a goal or if a child was hurt during the course of play; the removal of shoes to make the game softer; and the requirement that goals scored must be below waist height. Examples of the latter include players who completely broke free from the fingercuff and played "solo" during the game; the modular interlocking of fingercuffs into clusters or three or four players; and pairings that played for both teams at the same time (switch?). There was even a performance of diving.

Finally, there was the programmed condition. The actual soccer ball was removed from the game, to be replaced by an imagined ball. The gestures of the players would dictate the position of the ball (always smudged) on the field of play. And the aggression of performance makes its final appearance as one team scores two goals in a matter of seconds to end the game in a tie.

Who had the more convincing actors?

AutoImmune Response

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"Riefenstahl's films develop the concept of dynamic form in Boccioni and the mobile cut in Deleuze/Bergson to arrive at a reassertion of the ways in which movement privileges expression over content. The foregrounding of dynamic form suggests that Riefenstahl composes with fascism but does not compose a fascist (disciplinary) body. What she composes is the expression of a becoming-body symbiotically linked to fascism but in excess of its disciplinarity. Riefenstahl composes-with. She begins with the beautiful, the young, the strong, but what she composes is never a particular or individual body. Movement is the commanding form of her work."

– Erin Manning, "From Biopolitics to the Biogram, or How Leni Riefenstahl Moves Through Fascism," in Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy, p.135.

Exodus

Exodus

"Exodus is not different from changing topic while a conversation is already on well-defined tracks. Instead of choosing what it is best to do starting from certain basic conditions, we endeavor to modify these conditions, that is, to modify the very 'grammar' that determines the selection of all possible choices. Exodus is the transfer to political praxis of the heuristic procedure, which we have mentioned above and which the mathematicians define as 'variation of data': giving precedence to secondary or heterogeneous factors, we move gradually from a determined problem: subjection or insurrection, to a totally different problem: how to realize a defection and to experience forms of self-government that were previously inconceivable."

Paolo Virno, Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation, p.148

Recombinant Football

(the following is from a proposal for idensitat [iD#6], Sport, Arts and Social Inclusion project laboratory, spain)

+ + +

"The [field] becomes configuring as the body recomposes. … What this means is that both body and space are experienced as alive with potential movement. … The body-[field] stratum is therefore neither object nor form, but infinite potential for recombination" (Erin Manning, Relationscapes, p.15).

+ + +

Phase One: Recombinant Play

1-Sided Football: How do we understand the sport of football in the absence of a willing community of competitors?

2-Sided Football: The traditional, binary form of football competition. What happens, though, when we add a second ball to the game? What happens when we remove the ball from the game and it must be collectively imagined in order for play to continue?

3-Sided Football: A reprisal of the three-sided football version proposed by Asger Jorn and the Situationst International to be played on a hexagonal pitch. In this version, however, we will also include the variants performed earlier: adding a second ball to play as well as removing the ball altogether, forcing the collective imagination to complete the game.

Phase One: Recombinant Play

Phase Two: Recombinant Skin

Registered Skin: The sports uniform is a particular semiotic technology designed to discipline or homogenize athlete identity, as well as allow fans to easily register members of "their" team on the field of play and cheer accordingly. Sport is also one of the few social domains in which numbers are directly inscribed to one's individual clothing.

Surgical Skin: Athletes will form groups of 3, one from each team. They will then collectively cut up their football jerseys into pieces, from which the three players will sew together 3 "new" jerseys as material artworks from the event.

Recombinant Skin: The new artworks become wearable, and the athletes return to the field of play for one final match of three-sided football. Strict visual identification is challenged and athletes become more reliant upon gesture.

Phase Two: Recombinant Skin

Phase Three: Recombinant Vision

To complement the first two analog phases of the project, which could be considered a performance followed by a material artwork or archival artefact, the third phase proposes a digital communication component that may be disseminated through various media channels (eg. gallery, web site, school). This will be a two-channel video that offers different, though "subjectively" interrelated, perspectives of the same event. The two channels, which we shall describe as "spectacle" and "kino-gait", are synchronized temporally but toggle back and forth between first- and second-channel positions on the screen.

Spectacle: The traditional camera angles that comprise professional sports television — sidelined, orthogonal, perspectival, fixed, panned. As closely as possible approximating the typical visual narratives of football.

Kino-Gait: What would happen if the skin-as-volumetric-construct could "see back" in surveillant space — in other words, if gait-as-skin-in-gesture became our method of seeing rather than the eye? Kino-gait should have multiple cameras functioning together to create a single omnidirectional volumetric vision. Its goal is to have the whole surface of the body function as an eye: the entire skin-as-camera becomes a preliminary limit of kino-gait. This is not to replace or diminish the flesh as a means or locus of knowing, but rather to complement or enhance it.

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(thank you to icarus for the balls e-idea)

lines, flights, labouring

fly...

In the contemporary society of control, "naked life" should be most often understood as a statistical concept of the body. While this may indeed (and must) have significant consequences for the naked animal body proper, it should first and foremost be considered a databased abstraction of the dividual social body (the predictive model of simulation described by Baudrillard) thereafter given spectacular flesh as the body+body+body of libidinal desire.

In this sense, we may consider the sponsorship of a sports team jersey as a particularly effective and salient communication strategy in that it allows for the corporate brand or meme to propagate in a fashion far more molecular than what is possible with any focused traditional advertising campaign (the molar). Couple this with the poverty of gesture (or physical literacy) that emerged in the labouring classes during the latter half of the twentieth century, and the sports sponsorship of naked life comes to resemble a straitjacket of signification.

The "closer" the skin of spectacle is to the animal body proper, the more virile the transmission.

Memories of the World, Cup Overfloweth

Zidane Eyes

June 2007: It was a little blonde girl, perhaps twelve years of age, kicking a soccer ball by herself. Her actions were deliberate, as if trying to develop some skill that she couldn't quite muster. Since a few of us had taken to kicking a ball around in the hotel courtyard after lunches, I motioned her to send a pass in my direction. We started kicking the ball back and forth a few times, after which she asked me a question … in German. I didn't understand a word she said. I was also trying to ask her a question, and tried to communicate back to her in English, equally to no avail. Our gesticulations couldn't overcome the language barrier either, and I could sense her becoming increasingly frustrated with this inability to make ourselves understood.

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"Only apparently do the players relate to each other empirically as discrete terms, mediated by reflection and language. They relate to each other in their collective becoming, as a distinct ontological level doubling their substantial being. It is this collective becoming that is the condition of a formation like a sport, common to the proto-game, the official game, unofficial versions coexisting with it, and subsequent variations of them all" (Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, p.76, emphasis added).

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July 2006: Beaded with sweat, under the glare of the stadium lights and the softer Berlin twilight, his head gleamed like a golden ball …

Memory

"I'd like to risk a basketball example…" (Brian Massumi, Saas-Fee, August 2010)

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June 2007: Isn't sport great sometimes? I left our random encounter and continued up the cobblestone path, spirits buoyed. Danke schoen, little German girl, for making me smile as well.