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.

Desperation Moves


In certain modern team sports there are a number of what we may describe as normative, yet legal, "desperation moves" that the team losing a contest may attempt as time begins to run out — provided the deficit is reasonably surmountable. In hockey, for example, the losing team will pull the goaltender in favour of an extra attacking skater; in basketball, a team will foul deliberately in order to force the other team to immediately shoot free throws; in gridiron football, there is the onside kickoff, etc.

Strategically, we might abstract these three examples as follows: in hockey, given the particular status (and equipment) that characterizes the goaltender, the attempt is to create an asymmetry in the number of attacking skaters and put pressure in the opposing zone. In basketball, constrained as it is by a required player symmetry, the attempt is to dilate the temporal parameters of the game, "extending" it by rapidly fouling and hopefully trading off multiple 1-point shots for 2- or 3-point shots at the other end. Gridiron football is also constrained by symmetry, on the one hand, but does not have regular and rapid turnover of possession either, and thus its attempt with the onside kick is to overload a space — or more precisely, to swarm a proximity.

In each case we witness a malleable, plastic quality — stretching, contracting, spasming — that over enough contests will have a statistically significant ability to turn the tide of victory in the timespaces of zero-sum athletic enclosure.

ways of seeing

ways of seeing

NFL / Jan. 3, 2017:

"The National Football League has announced it will honor John Berger during halftime of the AFC wildcard game this Saturday between the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. Berger's pioneering contributions will be remembered with a 2-minute jumbotron tribute and military flyover of Heinz Field."

splitscreen personality




Sport (and its various mediations) perhaps best expresses that "interdimensional" experience of Being-in-the-City within its logic, offering at once in the same "subjectivity" both flâneur (player) and surveillance functions (diagrammatic x's and o's, archival game video).

an olympiad is a unit of time


Aspects of Curvature


When a sport with pronounced flight trajectories such a basketball is shot for television in 4:3 ratio and then displayed in a stretched 16:9 widescreen format, the paths look very distorted compared to what one is used to seeing in more native televisual or live-viewing contexts. This isn't necessarily true for all curves in the game. Our ability as TV spectators to "adapt" to the "distorted" or "compressed" athletic bodies at play (and their "newly-béziered" contours) is relatively quick and seamless, as is adjusting to the new shape of the three-point arc relative to the rest of the lines which describe the basketball court.

But the flight path of the ball upon being shot — particularly from deeper distances with their longer trajectories — remains stubborn to such perceptual recalibrations by the televiewer. The arc of the shot appears flatter and in turns generates a foreshortening, particularly to the most experienced eyes. The "true" flight of the ball, when seen in the elongated 16:9 widescreen format, continually appears as if it will undershoot the target before ultimately swishing through the net.

Not subject or object, then, but traject and aspect — new relational opportunities for the visually uncanny.