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.

splitscreen personality

diagram

survey

pov

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).

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.

Hammer

hammer

Twilight in the Eyeholes, or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer

"Weary thought, incapable of maintaining itself on the plane of immanence, can no longer bear the infinite speeds of the third kind that, in the manner of a vortex, measure the concept’s copresence to all its intensive components at once. It falls back on the relative speeds that concern only the succession of movement from one point to another, from one extensive component to an other, from an idea to another, and that measure simple associations without being able to reconstitute any concept."

(Gilles Deleuze, What is Philosophy?, p.214; quoted by Isabelle Stengers)

~

"Plug in, mecha butterfly kraftwerker!"

(sportsbabel, april 2012)

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.