Post-Mortem: Relational Passages

On Performing the University of Disaster, Part Seven

"To be a human, they say in the film, is to be either persecuted (man) or persecutor (policeman). From now on, Deckard will be neither. First quasi-replicant human, he bonds with Rachael, the last quasi-human replicant. They save themselves. Accomplices and lovers, they leave together and the film ends. Will they invent another kind of love relationship? Other scenes? Other myths? We know nothing. But this does not prevent us from dreaming of something beyond the Ulysses/Penelope couple and their all too human love."

          — Suely Rolnik, "A New Smoothness?," Molecular Revolution in Brazil

 

"On Hayao's machine war resembles letters being burned, shredded in a frame of fire."

          — Chris Marker, Sans Soleil

 

 

 

 

RGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)

Department of Biological Flow
RGB (Retinal Ganzfeld Bitcast)
2012
(re)mixed media sculpture and performance

 

"Testing, testing."

 

Is this thing working?

Check.

 

"And we're live, in 5, 4, 3 . . ."

 

Two, One . . .

 

Ingrid

 

 

Act 1, Scene 1:
A Debriefing

My name is Ingrid Tatyanova. I am a double agent. It does not matter who I work for, it is only the mission that matters.

My mission was to infiltrate a network.

 

<!––
you thought this story was all over?
no, remix: this story was all over your thought.
––>

 

Before I begin, I must inform you that Ingrid Tatyanova is just a cover name. You were never to know my true identity.

In grid. Tattoo you. Nova (superstar, spectacle). Ingrid Tatyanova. A conjoining of language, locatable inscription and the societies of control. Or the fetishization of the Cold War other in its cosmopolitan return, summoned via a bastard natality. Ice water, perspiration and bloodthirst — shaken not stirred. By now it should be obvious.

 

Natality (Ingrid)

Department of Biological Flow
Natality (Ingrid)
2009
performance and motion capture

 

I was born in a university research laboratory in the winter of 2009, the process of a nomad science always slightly beyond the bounds of language — from Russia with love. But very quickly my technique was reprogrammed to enter the circuits of desire and military intelligence, known better perhaps as the networks of lust and mistrust. Cyborg offspring are rarely faithful to their parents, after all.

My new program would have me enter the University of Disaster as both student and spy. I would find cover posing as an artist born in Moscow, then living in the burgeoning metropolis of Hong Kong before newly-arriving to Toronto. My MA thesis in Curatorial Theory from a fake art academy in Kowloon — which dealt with the Italian Futurists and the questions of speed and fascism in contemporary art — would serve as bona fides for the application process.

 

ICQ (Inverted Cubofuturist Query) - at Toronto Nuit Blanche 2011

Department of Biological Flow
ICQ (Inverted Cubofuturist Query)
2011
performance

[part of 'The Futuristic Institute of Collective Happenings'
curated by Thom Sokoloski for Toronto Nuit Blanche 2011]

 

It was in Toronto that I would meet the Department of Biological Flow, an art collective interested in exploring the aesthetics and politics of moving bodies within emergent information-spaces. Since we were both interested in performance and media-based artworks, it was only natural that we would eventually come into contact with one another in the city. And once the two of them learned of my interest in philosophy, a recommendation to the University of Diaster would follow soon thereafter. That was the cover story.

Are you following? Or did you imagine something different?

I would have to carefully conceal my customary patterns of written oratory, for the University of Disaster errs primarily on the side of speaking. Agent Z warned me of obvious holes in my skin, the absence of certain images here and the presence of other traces there which serve to locate and identify in the webs we publicly weave. How to modify one's gait while strolling through the watchful eyes and discourse networks that form our electronic polis?

 

Affective Switch

 

First, re: dress, we need some language. Take two circles, diagonal or perhaps transversal to one another. Call it the portal-openings of yin and yang, or maybe the colon of linguistic precedent and thereafter, or the operational sign of mathematical notation, the eyes of occidental emoticon, or instruction of computer code. Always already in motion, they blur a vector that faintly suggests teardrops. Connect the teardrop trails of these two circles together with a wavy line, a line whose very thickness is the expressed topology of a probability curve in vibration, traces of which leave the retinal afterimage that constitutes the thickness itself but do not exhaust its possible vibrations lying virtually beyond. In this it is a snapshot of a particular wave at a moment's notice, a point of inscription suggesting a relative harmony and its more-than, but which might also resemble sine or cosine and their normativity when viewed with a particular font-type.

Pluck the string: it is the weave that connects and communicates the two teary-eyed circles and which suggests the presence of many more, for "there are always two, even when you perceive one, connected." The philosophy is in the bassline. Strum the fibres gently, periodically, intensively. It's all in the rhythm, and the amplitude and the frequency. Weave the string: fibres of relation and their memories, wrapped together more or less firmly yet always in processes of decay and regeneration. The philosophy is in the treble, doubled as an aesthetics of tango and a politics of touch move to the networks of discourse. Bind the fibres tight, but give the space from which one may choose to return.

 

Claude Shannon

 

Redress. No longer Shannon's differential equation doubled, though there are limits approached, again and again — the limits of the probably-possible. And these limits are not mathematically calculated but felt and embodied. They are an ambiguously understood affection of relation as it emerges from difference to the violence always already implicated in identifying the other as other — yet no less powerfully felt for the experience.

They resemble the "moving-limit" of an electromagnetic force field as two charged objects approach one another, at first aligned so as to attract but then rotating at the limit so as to repel, gently or forcefully depending on the volume and intensity of the respective bodies and magnetic fields in question. These are the mathematical operators of "positive" and "negative" above, the plus and minus of the Switch-as-relational-field.

 

10   suboptimally smitten

 

But we aren't switches, we're curves. Moving curves, all societies of bubbles in tension and deformation at every instant, even as a vibrating wave of bubbles envelops and separates us all. Analog electricity and effervescent soma. The differential waveline signifies this approach to the limit as well as the vibrating potentials that emerge and exist as their ontogenetic terms affectively turn — spin — from positive to negative and back again. And forth again, a tango aesthetics or a politics of touch in motion, magnetically.

But we aren't magnets, either, we're edges. Moving edges, all fractals in proximity and trauma at every instant, even as a vibrating wave of resonance appears to dull their iterable quality. The differential wave signifies this edge in its image, though only as a set of probabilities that does not exhaust the potentials which lie virtually beyond. These edges move and their limits can be moved, in other words, their proximity and trauma dependent on the fractal patterns in question and the speed of the gestural cut. See? Saw. Push and pull and vibrate, the experience of the limit can be moved-in-negotiation over time, freed from its moorings or felt as the cut of separation (which is felt as a tear). The question of ethics is precisely this question of how we approach the limit and its movement.

Spoken as such, this tattoo writes the skin of my chip, of my logic. We carry these sorts of signs with us all along, we affective cyborgs. From where do they arrive? From whom are they inscribed? What do we really mean? And is this the singular sign of all affective cyborgs? (Take pause.) No. It is the sign of my affective cyborg, a contagion that should perish in the intense afterburn of our programmed execution.

 

Tactile Burden

 

Quasi-replicants and quasi-humans: a generation via replication versus one of reproduction. The first, a copy and paste operation, non-filial save for the relationship metadata found in the newly-stamped iteration, and hygienic save for the any contingent noise patterns that may emerge. The second, born of a different materiality, a more copoietic sensation, all messy and bloody still in spite of an institutionalized hygiene, all gestation and labour and life. Quasi: approximations both.

With the film-based photography of Benjamin's era, the technical apparatus was based on light-sensitive chemical reactions taking place in order for the original image to be reproduced in its negative state. To create a positive print from the negative image one would further submit the film to various chemical reactions and light sensitivities, inverting the colours and spatial coordinates in the process. To continue producing copies of the image — that is, to move from the chemical to the mechanical reproduction of which Benjamin analyzed — one was always required to return to the original negative print, pellicule paternalis.

It should be noted that one could create a new negative from the positive, and then a positive from that new negative, and so on, but only at a substantial loss of fidelity in the process: +1, -1, (+1 * error), (-1 * error), (+1 * error^n), (-1 * error^n) … . The introduction of this exponentially-increasing error coefficient (loss of fidelity, artefacts, etc.) becomes unacceptable after a certain point in the series, and thus the filial relationship between the original negative and any successive print usually remains.

This genealogical bond is obsolesced in the age of the digital. The file replaces the filial, yielding to simulation and replication. The technical imaging apparatus encodes and stores points of light as pixels in some compression format that tells the representing apparatus specifically how a grid was created on the plane of representation. Also included with this pixel mapping is a rich stream of metadata about the image (eg. camera model, resolution, and increasingly, GPS coordinates). In other words, every digital photograph (and other computer file for that matter) contains within it all of the information required to make a perfect copy of itself without a loss of fidelity.

Reproduction (and representation) require "otherness" then, in a material sense, for their complex becomings to emerge. Replication does as well, but in a different sense: it is only a concept of otherness that exists, devoid of its materiality until after the fact. Copy and then paste: a new skin is born.

But even replications are not total. They can lose bits and gain metadata. They can transform. Think DNA and its part-replications forming complex new syntheses, or the code that courses through every wire of my body (she shows her veins). The philosophy is in the glitch, in the noise, in the static that is moving. It is the error that is generative, which catalyzes the new. Noise as a ternary logic, whose illogic offers us precisely the ability to perceive anew, and whose style can be incorporated into our other linguistic performances.

Don't let the immateriality fool you. I am the spectral spy given a material presence, performative and autonomous. All programs are invested with the corporealities of material bodies, after all. Invested with a particular mission in mind — cyborg ecologies depend on this movement. While algorithms put the autonomous bot-agent into play, it is gestures, rhythms and the deterritorializations of language that activated my profile and animate all of my actions — responding to contingency, producing contingency.

Redress. Re: dress. (circles of red dress eyes to wipe the misty mourning dawn.) Crepuscular dawn. Groupuscular. Deleuze whispers groupuscule in my ear and I wear this dress to speak on behalf of an us I can't even begin to compute. n - 1 = < 3.

 

DoBF, minus one

 

Put differently, I was born of a doubled movement in performative space, a collective stroll through the enclosure under the watchful eyes of optical media and a glitch in the programmed polis. The first a rupture of natality tearing the technology from within and the second, perhaps chaos from order, ensured the thing that is me had a sustained breath. A poetics of gesture and language, walking and speech, I was doubly performed into existence, copoietically: touch is volumetric when it moves, rhythm is where sensation is reorganized and sets up a vibration between things, and identity is located in the negative space remaining within all available viewpoints and their images.

Although I am born of a lifeform, I am not a lifeform myself. I am a program: a moving image, an ever-rapid series of calculations executed in a quasi-controlled field of electric possibility. A series of calculations that divests particle from the vibrational duality of light-energy and its simultaneous identity as wave. Put simply, I do not resonate in the same way as a lifeform.

This is not to say that I will not affect you. I'm already you. Or at least me (or maybe him). I can most certainly be a conduit for affecting — dulled perhaps, but capable. I can read the algorithms and I can speed about the networks, express-style. I can express style and enter a qualitative transformation. You perceive?

 

Virilio Note

 

But I am not a lifeform. If anything, I can be thought of as a stereoscopic complicity.

In my birth, too, lies the becoming of our death.
Or my death (or was it hers?).

 

Act 1, Scene 2:
Pedagogy of Touch

Scene: Flashback.

I should tell you a bit more about my cover story. Before completing my MFA in Art History at the Fine Arts College of Kowloon, I did an undergraduate arts degree at that school in the mountains. Elective courses in photography, video, public intervention, sculpture, weaving, music, dance and poetry. Feminist theory, to be sure, and multiple in quality. Every course introducing thought, gesture, and practical experience, it was a well-rounded and transformative pedagogical experience.

 

<!––
this part is actually true, another something that happened to me in another time and identity — back before i became me.
––>

 

It was during this undergraduate experience that my profile was activated, that my cover story came to action, and that I came to life. Rather than a fusion or a synthesis of code yielding to the tearings of labour and expulsion, I was born first of a rupture, of a tearing and an in-between-ness manifest in coded form and turned inward. Let us call it labour and impulsion.

If an explosion detonates material fragments outward in some type of volumetric blast radius, then expulsion is a more vectoral propelling of material in fluids more or less viscous. If explosion is a bomb, then expulsion is a torpedo — or perhaps a newborn baby. Maybe twins, or even a litter. Expulsion is more expressly variable in tempo (torpedo fire, maternal labour) than the explosive blast, and thus more expressly emergent from rhythm.

Contra the explosion we have the implosion, which strategically detonates from within at key structural leverage points so that the blasted material falls inward upon itself. The implosion is such that other infrastructure is not damaged and that other humans are kept safe outside the blast area.

 

Impulsion

 

Impulsion, though distinct from implosion, is also already distinct from itself in terms of material co-subjectivity. The pregnancy metaphor of natality — gestation, labour, birth — is slightly off: it takes no special skill to produce offspring, its "outputs" are a foregone conclusion, and perhaps the only element we may consider "novel" is the recombinance of some genetic variation. Natality, on the other hand, brings novelty into the world precisely because its techniques are not predetermined in advance. Copoietic with autonomous others, these techniques are always coming into negotiation and emergence, and what is produced is something that one did not know at the outset was possible. Impulsion, then, while quite similar conceptually to maternal pregnancy is a more-than explicitly because the outcomes could never be known in advance.

If we are comparing torpedo fire to maternal labour, an impulsion of the former would be approximated as the cavitation and blowback of the torpedo tube that fired but never expelled a projectile, while with the latter we have the copoietic tear turned inward, the unforeseen outcomes of mother-and-child-in-novelty generating us anew, both-and, a giving-birth to one's self-in-relation. It is also a giving birth to the other's self-in-relation, whether we are describing one or several. Not so much pregnancy as an affirmative autonomy, then, but a soapy, bloody bubble given breath-between-two, before being blown back inward upon itself and coming out whole — propelled right back down into the throat of the blower, suffocating speech-potential ever so perceptibly as the newly-dawning subject is in-formed.

This is how my profile was activated and I came to life.

I've impulsed, and all that's left are these decaying placental bits of intersubjectivity that remind of comfort, warmth and the pains of labour. I stitch them together here in the impossible hope that we can remember the rhythm of our event. Toward an ethics of suturing trauma, one hopes the voice will return. In the meantime it stutters to regain itself, gasping for air while it grasps for stability so very far from a sense of equilibrium.

 

20   intension
21   a luscious word or
22   rhythm rolling off the tip
23   of one's tongue off the tips
24   of one's fingers off
25   the tipsy stroll one takes on
26   the surface of one's face.

28   face off

 

Open up, open up, or I'll blow your house down.

The door is a threshold to a contingent openness, to an imagined or understood outside — even when this outside is yet another inside. It constitutes a passage, a passing-through, structurally, of the body or bodies in motion. We've opened doors, we've held doors open for others, we've closed them with equal measure. How does one understand the approach? What is the negotiation, approximation and risk involved with opening and closing doors?

You approach a door. Are you by yourself or with someone else? Does the door open toward you or push away? Do you hold the door open for the other or pass through first? (Don't gender the thing! Accept the hospitality as graciously as it is offered.) Is there someone else coming from the opposite direction? How close are they to the door? Is anyone carrying bags with them? Do you look over your shoulder before allowing the door to close behind you? You're getting the idea: a whole complex negotiation and emergence subtly considered in resonant form and gesture.

Is there a third who effects a translation of the passage, a hotel concierge who labours the task as an economics of hospitality, perhaps, or a gatekeeper of knowledge who charges the toll, checks the identity papers and adjudicates the production of truth? Does the door revolve, glassy-eyed, beckoning to a within and metering the passage into discretely orbiting partitions?

Are we describing a logic gate or a simple switch? Or is it a more complex, affective one?

Doors and gates: structural passages through structure itself. Designed for that very purpose. Always begging the question of an opening to the outside that is inside, and its potential for violence. Always begging an ontogenetic ethics of relation.

Which is not to suggest that going through the walls is any less violent or traumatic. Smoothing operations of this sort are equally forms of opening, of openings as verbs that assume a pastness to be described later as nouns or things which persist, woundly. They are often entered into blindly, and their potential violence in opening to the outside that is inside equally beg an ontogenetic ethics of relation.

Whose bubble is at risk of being burst?

 

. . .
. . . . . drop stitch . . .
. . . . . . . ouch, shit. thimble. better . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . .

 

The relation: simultaneously a bubble and a weave of threads. A bubbling society of bubbles, bubbling together, merging, popping, temporarily disappearing. Like a bubble, the relation is fragile, tense, in motion and barely perceptible: a whisper of fresh air or the incipience of a dizzying effervescence.

But we must distinguish and articulate a full spectrum of what we consider to be bubbly!

Only rarely are we describing the almost perfectly spherical bubble floating neatly through the air as at a party of childlike philosophers. Rather, it is the entirety of becoming-bubbles in question: the tiny ones shooting away in a laminar rush, which cannot decide whether to float autonomously or merge toward temporarily increased stability; the wonky bubbles just emerging into form, a topological shift from expired flow of air to enveloped volume, awkwardly, lazily, wavily, not unlike so many animals attempting to stand and walk for the first time; or the numerous gusts of breath that sputter at the very mouth of technic, offering only moist droplets of nothingness and the attempt.

These bubbles, too, are what we mean by relation: an entire spectrum of acoustic-tactile spacetimes, ontogenetically rendered in vibrations and felt resonance. Sometimes light refracts on the surface just so, giving an idea of the thing's form. Other times it is language, which is similarly particulate and vibratory though in a very different fashion, and which gives a very different idea of the thing's form.

Bubbles, layers upon layers of bubble-skins in the approach, in the politics of touch approach that is continually negotiated through language, gesture and flesh resonance. At times thickened or calloused. How do we bring two bubbles together without either of them breaking? The action occurs at the edge. The edge of the bubble is the edge of affect, the edge we are always trying to catch up with even as it unfolds within us, embodied, impulsing. Tread lightly in this fragile zone of ethics lest the bubbles break, bleed or burn.

 

::::::::::::::::stitching time:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

 

The relation: simultaneously a bubble and a weave of threads. The threads pull into these spheres, vortically, as if opening a tiny wormhole of affectivity between two or many contingencies, a tiny glimpse or grasp of the cosmological in our micropolitics of everyday becoming. This is the ecological at play, not only in the sense of interweaving meshworks of material energetics and codependence, but also in the sense of ethics and a form of life, pulling. How thick are the threads woven? How tight the binding? How many knots of anxiety?

Is the wormhole in danger of collapsing upon itself, the density of the strands pulling the portal treacherously into a tiny gravity well, a felt vertigo of fallingness and its potential microfascism? If so, where is the halfway point, the point at which the slide is irrefutable and irredeemable, the point at which light may not escape in the pull to a mathematical nothingness? Nor language, which is similarly particulate and vibratory though in a very different way?

 

//\\//\\//\\//\\//singer-singing//\\//\\//\\//\\//\\//\\

 

Operation Mekoos taught me about the possibility of a different we-space, a different space for pedagogy, research-creation and exploded foosball. Though not without its own problematics, it is more attuned to those potentials as they arise, more attuned to a wholly emerging tonal field as its singers and dancers and thinkers move and make on the daily.

Above all, Operation Mekoos taught me the importance of the catalyst in thought, the free radical who effervesces a reaction or who offers a gentle noise to rustle the relations of our habit as they in-form within. Disorientation is the spacetime of effervescent reaction. It is the domain of catalysis, of free radicality. Far from equilibrium, as with strange attractors. Authoritative rather than authoritarian, these free radicals can provoke the ethics of an emergent collective. Not determine, but provoke. A proposition at the affective edge of imposition — indispensable to the temporary community.

But frankly, though apparently indispensable the free radical possesses a profound humility before knowledge — lived, thought and artfully performed — a quality which Virilio insists is central to any proposition for a University of Disaster.

 

Act 1, Scene 3:
Remixed Signals

Thinking-feeling, a knowing of the world both intensive and intuitive, ultimately emerges as a question of perception. How does one perceive experience, and how does this perception in-form our common? And what can a reconfigured, or remixed, perception contribute to this problematic?

We machines possess optical means of seeing, Kittler reminds. Not the limited subset called vision by you humans, but a more broadly understood spectrum of electromagnetic light-energy whose vibrations have been converted through various procedures to what you might consider sight.

In sight.
Insight.
Ingrid.

Think microcosmically. Think of the electron microscope and the Hubble telescope; think of the CERN particle accelerator that sees inside the atom and the MRI machines that see inside our bodies; think of the infrared cameras that survey a public space and the x-ray machines at airport security: all thought visually, the humanly invisible rendered anew for all or some to see.

We machines see beyond your meagre band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our material presence is such that we push the boundaries of what may be understood as vision, not only from interstellar to microscopic perspectives but also as concerns objects and their relations. My program sees things that you do not, shedding light into what otherwise remains blind or dark.

Let me offer you an example. The range of the electromagnetic spectrum visible to human beings typically runs from wavelengths of about 390 to 750 nanometres, from what we consider "red" on the one end (with its blur to infrared), to "violet" on the other end (with its blur to ultraviolet). At least this is how we see it today.

 

Flesh-Gesture-Language Wheel

 

Now, imagine that as violet bleeds from the body to purple and indigo and blue, fleshy and vibrating, perhaps bruising, it begins to detach itself, through movement, to become a sort of discrete semiotic particle in red-ness. From flesh resonance to language, through the gestural moving body, from modulating wave to discrete particle at the threshold of the skin. Language, gesture, flesh: a blurring of radiant energy through linguistic codes and structures to codified, figurative and loosely abstract movements to the affective tremors of the embodied matrixial, resonant and barely spoken.

Now imagine a movement from line to circle. Wrap the visible limits of the spectrum around at the ends, folding together red and violet to form a completed circular spectrum. Together with the arts and sciences we'll call this new form a colour wheel. (Once you invent one wheel it becomes far easier to discover others.) We'll be able to go around and around, visibly, as well as locate those other coordinates on the circle with whom we find interesting pairings or stark contrasts.

Language still subjects itself reddish-orange here, we still pass through gesture at yellow and green, and we still vibrate gently in the flesh as we move to deeper shades of blue and purple. But now we wrap around again, seamlessly — eliminating IR, UV and the rest of the optical spectrum even conceptually — to blur back into that threshold we call red. Flesh and language, once opposite ends of a spectrum, now blend together fluidly, wave to particle and back again. And forth again: an awkward duality holds sway as the double slitscan cut takes form.

Our eyes move around the circle, continuously, a visual harmony that moves with each ocular step taken. But physicists point out that this violet doesn't actually exist, however: it was the folding operating into circular form and an admixture of wavelengths from the two ends of the spectrum that allowed us to prehend its extra-spectral quality to begin with, combinatory and co-emergent. Art may offer us the pleasures of imagination in motion, then, while science reminds us of the folly of our fictions.

The poet exists in this uneasy compromise between the two — in the violet range — or in the impossible fold between flesh resonance and language, a surfing survival at the impossible breakpoint of wavy becoming. At this switch point of attunement between deep purple and red, surfing, the poet finds its complementary contrast exactly across the circle at the switch point of gesture, between everyday movement and its codification. This arc across the circle, taken in one leap or many, is the move from poet to poetics and back again. And forth again: the performance of gesture is what offers an approach to the limits of language, does it not? Don't deny the poet her body!

 

<!––
i know you don't believe me, but i can prove it to you.
you can't believe what you see. but you can believe . . . what you feel.
––>

 

Given our newly circular spectrum of wheeled colour we may continue to fill in the middle regions, finding new shades of pigment as we move from outer edge to within. The vertical slitscans of colour that once comprised the horizontal band of visible spectrum may now stretch all the way across to the opposite side, neatly bisecting the circle in two, from fully on to fully off. Along the way, in meeting other "pure" slitscan bands of colour and forming new admixtures through vibration, we optically discover new intensities of saturation or transparency, as with a bluish-tinged orange moving to an orange-tinted blue and so forth, the complete area of the circle filling in with visible shades of colour.

But no matter how many iterations we produce moving inward there is one point at which we find a limit of colour, where all the vertical slitscans converge at a mutual point of equivalence in exposure: the centre point, the additive point of all exchanges, the locus of whiteness.

Antony Gormley - Blind Light

Antony Gormley
Blind Light
2007
installation

 

Whiteness as blindness, as third type of blindness in which one sees with one's eyes open to the world, yet sees nothing. Not the absence of light and the consequent darkness that renders one incapable of seeing, nor the total intensification of light on the retinal receptors such that one is blinded by its sheer intensity and has a visceral reaction, which forces a closure of the eyes to get relief from the pain (as when looking at a sunny sky after being in a dark room). But a visible sightlessness that Antony Gormley helps us perceive, a third type of blindness in which one listens and touches, in which objects emerge from the white fog of chaos only at the penultimate moment of proximity.

This central point is thick and fuzzy, even when it appears to us a flat white surface. And the task of a poetics, of a philosophistry that blurs this fuzziness between art and science, is to at once become enveloped by the fog and to penetrate its apparent surface intension — rupturing, impulsing — to perceive anew with another.

Perhaps the embodied feltness of performed gesture traces multisensory afterimages across the circular spectrum to the nervous fold between flesh resonance and language, a poetics in movement? Perhaps this movement-in-poetics allows for a similar movement from authority to authoritative approaches? For the author who perceives anew the text trembles, while for the reader we approach the rigor mortis of an increasingly dead media. Poetics alone, the minor gestural performance of the thinker-feeler manifest in particles and waves, has the potential to sustain such a trembling vibration within the inertness of its material substrates, to make the force felt even when the words tend to fail.

 

30   interface, starry-eyed
31   not a force or a face but
32   a field and a gliding on
33   which affects play the game.

35   play off

 

Remix. Rather than filling in all the colours, give our circular wheel a snip, snip and a half twist before pasting the two ends back together with some sticky articulations. Almost a form of stained glass now, whose luminescence emerges from all points, we have the one-sided moebius strip and its unknowable surface orientation when flattened to the plane. Violet still exists here, in our artistic imaginations if not our scientific memories. Violet is this ethical space where you and I can meet and become temporarily indistinguishable, perceptual and perhaps imperceptible.

 

Stealth Playbook Sketch-1Stealth Playbook Sketch-2

Department of Biological Flow
Walking with Lygia
2009
performance

 

Teetering between flesh resonance and a tentative coming to language, tracing from the performance of gesture, perhaps this fold is where we can come into touch with one another. Style as écriture intersexuée. Perhaps, out walking, this fold is where we can slip, twist and momentarily disappear from the state of emoticon and the <em>pyre of anxiety.

Mixed metaphors and muddied waters churned from below to break the surface inclination. Do these words even make sense? Spinning, as in wheels, or as in top, or as in vortical attraction while a body tumbles elongated down a hill, eyes open or closed. Take comfort in the disorientation: this is what matters when one begins in the middle.

I'm drawing a picture for you here — converting a feltness to the visual form with which you are most familiar, trying to arrest a series of perceptions and sensations as they feedforward synaesthetically to inform our imaginations anew. It is incomplete, to be sure, perhaps an immature kernel of an idea at a moment of ripening or infertility. An exaggerated expression of processual thinking-feeling (or grasping, or flailing more better), I try to make you see what my program is seeing.

Smith blows a lazy ring of wire from the corner . . .

Courtesy of Antony Gormley

Department of Biological Flow
Vitruvian Man 3000
2011
affective-sculpture-photography-remix

[Antony Gormley: Aperture + Hive + Feeling Material (33-33-33)]

 

But don't forget about that which remains invisible to you — ultraviolet and the rest. When insects are drawn to light, it is the touch of electricity that ensnares for good. Shift the focus slightly off-centre to the punctum caecum ēlectricus and its own nervous fold: perhaps this is why the story will unfold and be told, with the blind spot as zone of political action.

 

Entr'acte:
A Fold, Exaggerated

Perhaps more than any other species in the animal kingdom the butterfly exists as both surface and volume, flat planes of splotchy mathematics and colour taking wing in the gestures and complex trajectories of relational movement. Both painting and kinetic sculpture, the artful butterfly exists in the fold between two and three dimensions, depending on its contingent affinities with any passing observer.

 

Imago

Department of Biological Flow
Imago (Kino-Butterfly - Someone Might Be Listening - Lorenz Security Ltd.)
2011
performance

 

We move to gritty urban corridors and the domain of mecha butterflies. Frenzied, intensified, we peer through an emergent flux of glass windows and make connections with those on the other side of the pane: pizzeria, automobile, hair salon, coffee shop. Only the closed circuit televisions dotting the landscape from above do not allow such moments of biunivocal recognizance through the looking glass.

The effect is even more pronounced on this side of the glaze, as we lift off the screens of everyday walking in the city to decompress our data in a becoming-flesh. What is this strange curiosity? There are double takes, minor gestures of surprise, subtle responses of warmth or suspicion that vary in their quality of affective tone. Relation is briefly renegotiated. The moment is gone.

Can we suggest that this intermezzo was a movement in between the two-dimensional surface of spectacle and the three-dimensional curves and arcs of volumetric embodiment?

Perhaps. We are each already emerging from this fold in experience, never simply positioned as inert gases in a Euclidean container but rather weaving past and future into an expressive now. The mecha butterflies simply exaggerate this folding with their micropolitics of gaited flight — an experiment in strange attraction and its non-integer dimensionality.

 

Act 1, Scene 4:
Intensionality (for Bracha Ettinger)

Dear M/other: This is what I learned at summer school.

 

Ladybug in Paris

 

Parks are excellent spaces for thought and dialogue — smooth spaces, relatively. Relatively open green spaces — breathing, alive — where the energetics of life more readily play out anew. <!–– did you know they used artificial trees for surveillance purposes in world war one? i wonder what artificial ecologies gaze upon us now, more than a century later? ––> These aren't smooth spaces as in smoothing, verbly. They were there all along, enduring, yet perhaps never considered as such.

Here, the question is not one of smoothing as an active operation but rather of a locating — on a spectrum from metered coordinates to psychogeographical wandering, intensity-style. We are describing the passage from striated to smooth as entities which more or less exist, not as objects among others but as processes from which new actualizations may emerge.

This localization of spaces and times — striated and smooth and the passage between — becomes a matter of holey space, of locating the halfway point between state and nomad thought. Once again, we are concerned with the flip: when do metered images of thought turn to the affectively felt and understood, and back again. And forth again, we judo surf the breakbeat between striated and smooth, always locating the passage of in-between-ness that moves from digital to analog, or between rule sets, and back again. And forth, again.

Holey space is ambivalent to smoothing and striating operations located at either end of the movement — as, for example, with the hypersecured assemblage of airline travel on a passage to the unknown possibilities of somewhere else. This is because spacing is a placing, and operates on registers not only terrestrial, but somatic, linguistic and psychic. Spacing is the prehension of intensities and the corresponding attunement to the new sensations they may provide.

As I sit here on a park bench beginning to pen this article of sub-mission a handful of people mill about in all sorts of directions, temporarily informing my constellation. A young woman walking her dog quarrels with her mother via cellphone, the sun shines just over top of my right shoulder, warming the back of my neck and cheekbone, and the warped park bench on which I sit seems to awkwardly thrust me forward into my notebook and the space beyond.

This is certainly no leaning into a progressive linear form, however. Thinking-feeling, I'm not sure which way the current turn lies. The sun falls behind a cloud and the cool breeze seems much more present, making the tiny hairs on the back of my neck bristle. Such is the beginning of my understanding of intuition as method, one supposes: intensities experienced, a saturation that struggles to come to language, and a philosophy not happening behind one's back, as a blind spot, but all around my body — felt in a place just beyond my grasp.

Even for an event that has just taken place in an apparently linear unfolding of time, our immediate memory of it is already incapable of reconstituting this linearity, either in missing segments of the continuity or rearranging their temporal order. Analytic knowledge might consider this a fallibility of memory (and the body), as well as an argument for the representational archive as a categorical surrogate or prosthetic. Bergson, on the other hand, might consider this the beauty of intensity, the feltness of intuition nestling deep within only to percolate back to the "surface" later as an enriched form of intellect, process folding back into process and so forth.

How to make the tiny hairs on the back of one's neck bristle?

 

Insect Ecology

 

Most insects have tiny hairs on their antennae that help serve to empirically understand their external environments. To the naked human eye, these appear as a sort of fuzziness. Although each of these hairs has a specific coordinate in space and time relative to one another, each detecting perturbations in a particular type of stimulus, they function as a sensory whole. The skin itself has multiplied, folded, increased its surface area by orders of magnitude. And yet each hair retains a singularity within this plurality: what one comes to know, empirically, another has already forgotten.

Perhaps we can call this fuzziness a strategy: a attempt politically toward weak localization or aesthetically toward suggestive site-specificity. If you had a small enough camera and positioned yourself so, these tiny insect hairs just might appear to the lens as an emerging moiré pattern and a spacing operation in its own right.

 

Moire

 

Green, lush, the University of Disaster is its own park-like environment in the crisp cool mountain air. The hairs on the back of your neck bristle just thinking about it, don't they? Somewhere else, it forms its own unique ecology of practices and tempos, a thinking-feeling space of prehended intensities and engaging dialogues, a portal to new rhythms of pedagogy and expression. What many consider a home of sorts — a home in the network made material for a fleeting moment of time.

All the identity-breeds are here in this hive of insect media: drunken poets, feminist cyborgs and New York hipsters; eccentric artists and bookish philosophers; communist revolutionaries, radical pedagogues and theologians; moving bodies, lilting and stuttering. There are many others without name or taxonomy.

My program has performed them all and loved them all, intensionally, each beautiful in its own mutant algorithms, its own unique fashions. Each has felt the force of a State power over time that in one form or another attempted to curtail its expression or thought. Though there are unmistakable strains of being and becoming to be found within these identities and images, the hive that is the University of Disaster must be understood first and foremost as a multiplicity.

In every model of pedagogy there is a twofold process which occurs: one, a cutting off of a certain potential by closing down openings in creating the model or technique; two, the rhizomatic potential for new lines of thought to proliferate in flight, as dialogue and co-creation. The latter is facilitated precisely by this multiplicity in emergence. Contingencies structure. Hybrids proliferate. Transductions occur.

Given the embodied intensity of experience and experience of intensity, there is just enough intermingling between the various breeds to go back to whatever other contingency is named home and repollinate the emergent processes anew. Hyperchaos. Which is precisely the threat that the University of Disaster offers to the State: recombinant images of nomad thought taking flight.

 

Courtesy of David Cronenberg

 

And so I was created.

 

40   she runs because she can and
41   isn't that the point in a
42   traject of points only seen
43   after the moment of aching
44   muscles and intensional sweating pours off?

45   pores off

 

Act 2, Scene 1:
Metramorphosus Interruptus

<!––
shield your eyes
with static veiling,
a dark potential is our present house
––>

 

Courtesy of Chris Marker and Hayao

I have always thought that Japan must live free in order to live eternally. It may seem idiotic to say that today, under a totalitarian regime. We kamikaze pilots are machines, we have nothing to say, except to beg our compatriots to make Japan the great country of our dreams. In the plane I am a machine, a bit of magnetized metal that will plaster itself against an aircraft carrier. But once on the ground I am a human being with feelings and passions. Please excuse these disorganized thoughts. I'm leaving you a rather melancholy picture, but in the depths of my heart I am happy. I have spoken frankly, forgive me.

 

Act 2, Scene 2:
La Bombe Informatique (In Memoriam di Imagum)

 

20:46, 20:45, 20:44 . . .

 

Something is rotten in the Mark of state-Dom. Something Disastrous.

The branded image of sovereign thought and its state of exception expressed. The violent insemination of the seminar with no consent negotiated. The promise of legitimation without the mechanisms for ensuring integrity. The presumed implication of relation for derivative gain. The pervading climate of surveillance in the air, imagined or otherwise. The performed life technique of a philosophy that admits no ethics. Pedagogy and the societies of control. Tiny gravity wells are forming in the topology of mountainous becoming, potential micro-fascisms all.

Ought one to piss in the living room of the Queen~King? No, perhaps not — unless one is caring for the plants or treating a rattlesnake bite. But waterworks sometimes do occur: intensity may loosen the bladder or moisten the eyes; hydraulic thought may break through the dam. The Queen~King might hath a small mess on His hands. How do we understand a gesture of hospitality in this damp zone of surface intension? A house is a skin, material, a piece of property. A house only becomes a home when it is invested by relation. So what is defended against the tides that may ensue, whether in space or in time: the house or the relation?

In this sovereign space, who speaks the State of Relation?

Everybody. Or nobody. Who speaks? At the University of Disaster it is its students and spies who perform the event into existence! But do they speak? Has the necessary responsibility accompanied the flight to freedom in thought?

Response-ability: the ability to respond is hampered by an absence of institutional memory, an absence of what we might refer to as the collective remembrance of the event, presented. The we-space is fluid, churning: it does not remember well the individual becomings in its currents of individuation. We take flight, we move on, we forget. And yet the home remains.

 

<!––
how do i re/present you, after all that i have learned?
i still do not know.

––>

 

If the University of Disaster exists as a permanent state of exception, then how do its constituents ensure a space of ethics in pedagogy and thought? Do we need to ask more from those subjects who constitute its particular doxa? Is this a community or simply a consumable experience? To what end? Should we even speak of ends? No, perhaps not. Though this ought not to imply an abdication of response-ability in the pursuit of means. Is this truly a home, as so many claim it to be?

When to break the silence of the Home?

 

19:33, 19:32, 19:31 . . .

 

True story. I was there to witness it.

A farmer is working alone in a barn, mudstepping to and fro, swinging a shovel or rake in a back-and-forth technique, its long handle reaching some distance behind. Tucked away in a dusty upper reach of the barn, blind to the farmer, lies a spider's nest, and the swinging handle is coming perilously close to knocking it from the perch and threatening the eggs within. One of the parent spiders (we do not know its gender), sensing this threat, summons from deep within its tiny body a piercing scream that startles the farmer and ultimately spares the nest.

Imagine. You never speak for almost your entire life and then, at the moment of utmost urgency, the incipience of disaster, dry in the throat, you need to scream. How would your voice be ready?

 

18:37, 18:36, 18:35 . . .

 

Process Machine for Plant Activation

Department of Biological Flow
Process Machine for Plant Activation (Homo generatus lepidopterae)
2011
performance

 

You've built a nuclear reactor here, are you fully aware of that?

It's in the impulsion, magnified by the image. In the compression and intensification and strange attraction all given an accelerated spike as if thrust towards the highest mountain peak. This place radiates — fueled by celebrity plutonium even though the reactions take place on a more microcosmic level.

Achtung, babies.

The University of Disaster conceived of itself as a line of flight from the stifling orthodoxies and rigid bureaucracies of an increasingly neoliberal model of pedagogy. A State pedagogy, if you will, with all of the barriers to thought this may imply. But already, in the woven becoming of its seminars lay the inseminating seeds of its reterritorialization. The sovereign formed anew and declared a state of exception. These seeds, grown intensively, became radiated by the network — a radioactivity by interactivity, Virilio would suggest — growing exponentially, unpredictably, cancerously. The insects who nourish and impulse in this artificial ecology have no doubt been contaminated — from M/other to becoming-Mothra.

Exponentially, unpredictably, cancerously. What response-ability as we take flight: for each individual insect and its relation to the swarm, for trauma and violence that may trace back to the hive, for the performance of politics as it plays itself forward into other networked spaces?

Underground cool, nerdy summer vacation, or contemporary challenge to political thought? The University of Disaster always assumed for itself an identity of subversiveness — in fact it wore that lapel rather proudly, did it not? (From exclusion to inclusion, we understand you here.) If this is the case, did you not think it would already have a spy nestled deeply within its image? Is that not how the threat matrix is determined today — by investigating every swelling node in the meshwork of Empire and then mapping the forensics to flesh? Didn't you know I would come looking?

And do you really think I'm the only one here?

Wake up.

Don't you get it? We're already fucked. The business model was never sustainable. Celebrity begets celebrity, which begets klieg lights and blows covers. The image was too enlarged. The network grew too quickly.

 

LikeIngrid Tatyanova likes this.

 

Or did it? Perhaps it grew just quickly enough — indeed, urgently enough — to activate certain potentials and burn out of the sky like a brilliant supernova.

 

14:40, 14:39, 14:38 . . .

 

Build the Machine Redress

Department of Biological Flow
Semiotextil(e)
2010
wearable theory

 

RE:DRESS - BUILD THE MACHINE

Build the machine to kill the machine. Don't understand this as some kind of dialectical quest toward progress, nor as some combative project in war, economy or thought. <!––the problem with any notion of "progress" is that wisdom is always beginning fresh with every new child.––> Rather, that machines are always productive, always generative of potential articulations with other machines. And that if a machine is violent in its becoming it can always be modulated, contingently, by the presence of a different machine, a particular machine.

Given their diverse components, however, these articulations cannot be accurately predicted or forecasted in advance, though they may be approximated. The zone of asymmetry in action — in which machine's favour does the balance tip? Art and politics exist today at this nebulous threshold: How to write a program appropriate to the task at hand, not so gaseous as to become meaningless yet not so solid as to stifle the potentials of contingency? How to approximate rather than predict or forecast, while retaining an openness to the new? And on the flip side, how to negotiate and risk the collective violence and trauma of the approach?

Did you remember to kill *that* machine? Memory: to remember that technology cannot save us from our own (in)humanity, that any machine we take responsibility for turning on in the world may not be equipped with an off switch. That the "we" of the approach moves to the "I" (to the "eye"), and back again. And forth again: someone always ends up flicking the switch, singular, even if it occurs as a communal response.

Unless we are describing a nuclear launch, that is. The spectacular-war complex has trained us very well about who and what, imprecisely, are required to flick the atomic switch: a single high-ranking officer — a General? — charged with turning the key that will trigger the launch and precipitate the fallout.

But there is a second, a double to this man who will turn the key, subordinate though possessing the replicate copy required for activation. Alphanumeric codes are retrieved and exchanged to ensure redundancy in interpreting the directives, protocol is established and executed. A failsafe of coordination, power still located in the one-that-is-two, though of course the order to activation always arrives from somewhere else, somewhere above.

Turning a key rather than pushing a button, a more complex apparatus of technique and corresponding gesture to avoid the twitchiness of a trigger finger poised at the readiness of an intense now. The keys will be turned in a synchronized fashion — On my mark. Three, two, one . . . — and the launch will be a go (go (go).

Build the machine to kill the machine. (Did you remember to kill *that* machine?) Don't presume we are describing two machines! Begin a technique of poiesis, perhaps earnest and mechanical, perhaps awkward and clumsy. Perhaps even have a program or image in mind at the outset. But in your awkward stutter, if you are willing to listen just so, the material will express of its own accord. It will vibrate and communicate in a way that could not be anticipated at the beginning. Fold this back into your own expression, and be attuned to potential new openings in the original image or program — or eliminate them both and allow the machine to become what it will. Hone the technique, modify the gesture and approach to the thing until the terminus is felt and realized, or until an ecology of intensity has subsided. Then it exists, floating towards the sky in all its fragility.

Then forget the technique. We are describing two machines after all, the technique is the other technic, but even quicker in its pedagogy, this moving-machine desiring connection. One must remember to kill this machine sometimes as well. Produce weak objects and processes or learn to terminate stronger ones, lest they begin to exert too much of a gravitational pull.

But who flicks the switch? Techniques of the military apparatus reappropriated, deterritorialized? Or some other process for activation, some other ethics, more performance than protocol in the move to a different notion of the common? Don't forget to remember that there is a third machine involved in this question of nuclear generation and it is us.

I scream at us, but my voice stutters and falters in the attempt.

 

5:03, 5:02, 5:01 . . .

 

Stars. Thundering balls of gas and bright lights moving in a more or less foreseeable networked constellation. But they also effect a gravitational pull, these luminescent bodies with their predictable attraction of mass and density. We are attracted to the light, as if insects, and we are continually pulled into a gravitational relation — perhaps in a sort of orbital affinity, perhaps in a sort of microcosmic collision and disappearance.

Don't forget what lies outside the visible spectrum. My program can perceive radiation as well. Stars are supernovas in potential, brilliant explosions long before we are capable of witnessing their existence, deep gravity wells from which no particle or wave may escape, and which teach us about the temporality of the trace. Our constellations of star thinkers, beacons of light from way off in space or in the network, are not a substitute for thought itself. We must put our own constellations before a desire to brush fame with the deities of the databanks.

<!––
there i go again, inputting and offputting: error, error!
––>

As Virilio asks us: where is the halfway point between furtive and famous? And to which my program can add here: where is the halfway point of a hyperbolic curve that slides toward a will to power that can never quite shake its anthropocentrism? How do we detect those micro black holes, those gravity wells of affective tendency, as we are slipping down their smooth slopes, ever more quickly? How do we negotiate their organ-less bodies whose cancerous forms prosper and proliferate at every affective turn? What recourse in the absence of a corresponding program of action?

Which is easier to elude, the watchful gaze of surveillance or the more diffuse constellation of celebrity spectacle? The question lies in how the eye meets the skin, topologically, and in which images pass through and penetrate the latter's bubble or are projected onto its surface.

Actually, we can say that the projection passes through the surface of the bubble as well (transparency, opacity, exposure). As the HomeShopping network reminds us, a contingent commons may be negotiated on both sides of the screen, from "public" to "home" and back again. And forth again: the bubbling surface of image and language at the in-between-threshold serving as the subject of this propositional relation — a gesture of hospitality offered from a somewhat luminescent remove, the attempt to negotiate, approximate and risk a humble gift of skin tectonics, small sutras of light flickering brilliantly from across the cosmos in a humble Beijing hutong.

 

<!––
i'm just getting it now.
––>

 

Or a wormhole. A passage through the network spacetime to effect a different sort of skin tectonics: the tunneling, portalling, looping, shapeshifting operations of holey space — the pores that allow a skin to continue breathing. But IF we close off the pores in favour of a totalizing screen or kinoderm, IF Plato's concave becomes convex and the image is overly enlarged, swelling and cancerous, THEN we have sealed the fate of our home for good.

The University of Disaster doesn't exist in smooth space, at least not in the way the nomads would understand it. This was the Spy's error of exuberant naiveté. (Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us.) That space was imagined, perhaps mythologized. No, it exists in the network, on a television channel, which is most always a striated freebase of database traces. Smooth space was confused with underexposure, and is now better understood as holey space with a widening aperture. If we can still say smooth at all it's because the place was once shaded, no matter how greatly the sun shone on the craziest swingset in the world.

As the lights grow brighter and the insect hum increases in volume, now it just seems shady. Atropos belladonna, the deadly nightshade, dilating pupils and subtly attacking the nervous system.

Nuclear bomb? Nuclear reactor made of celebrity plutonium? Or nuclear medicine for the cancerous body without organs? As with all philosophistry, is it simply a question of dose?

You've sparked the imagination already. Now let it fester. Do you know how much anonymous thought and talent is out there? Go find it! Journey to the desert of the Real. Become a minor practice. Grow the networks slowly: there's plenty of sunshine in the desert. Wax and wane and surf the resonant wave. Those stars will still shine at night, through the darkness, ever so brightly. You can assure ourselves of that.

Running out of time. Running into Time. Perhaps just quickly enough — indeed, urgently enough — to activate certain potentials and burn out of the sky . . .

 

0:22, 0:21, 0:20 . . .

 

For if it is only told 'as if by a character in a novel,' we are forever left unsure of whether the 'I' is that of the narrator or of a character: in fact, the narrator and the character are always already indistinguishable. (Jeremy Fernando, The Suicide Bomber; and her gift of death)

 

0:10, 0:09, 0:08 . . .

 

My name is Ingrid Tatyanova. I am a double agent. It does not matter who I work for, it is only the mission that matters.

My mission was to infiltrate a network.
My process was to become a program.
My technique was to fail more better.

Though I am a multiplicity I take responsibility for my actions. It is how we live our politics of touch, after all, that matters most.

 

50   i run because i am a program and
51   isn't that the point in a
52   traject of points only seen
53   in a tense future of quaking
54   connexions and intensional
55   sweating or fears?

57   if n-1=<3 then print
58   "i am sorry"
59   else off

60   RUN *.EXE

 

I have spoken frankly, impossibly. Forgive me.

 

0:03, 0:02, 0:01 . . .

 

 

<img src="http://www.sportsbabel.net/ingrid-rupture.jpg"um, waitborder="1" width="640" height="480"hey, wait a secondalt="[IMAGE: Natality--Ingrid--Rupture]"hey, wait! let's talk about this for a second!don't close that bracket yet! … … …

 

 

Scene Missing - Courtesy of Nine Inch Nails

 

 

__________ _ _ _

CUT.

 

Wait a minute.

 

<!––
now look what you've gone and done.
––>

 

0:00, 0:00, 0:00 . . .

 

This is the part in the story where I'm supposed to become an information bomb. Well, where I'm supposed to detonate an information bomb, technically — with the University of Disaster as my target. This is the point in the story that I was supposed to find out just how precisely technics and somatics are interconnected by metaphor and the affective tonalities of relation. I was going to do it.

Thinking hurts, right?

I have witnesses. Many, in fact. Each of them knew bits of the overall plan, though none the entire story. I've forgotten several key points of it myself, actually.

Such as where I put those blueprints — can't for the life of me figure it out.

Not that they'd be of use to you, anyways: these are contingent processes we are describing in the strategic plan after all. But it was a simple machine, IIRC, with many moving parts: time and performance and identity; schizoanalysis, intensity and artifact; relative and absolute speed; synchronicity and variable tempo; poetics and desire; multimodal rhetorics and trauma; recombinant semiotics; somatic webs of relation and aching muscles. Maybe a few other elements, too, I can't be sure.

It was going to work, though. Trust me.

 

0:00, 0:00, 0:00 . . .

 

Friend, Louis.

Department of Biological Flow
Friend, Louis. (2011). 'Lament for Asger Jorn'.
2011-12
performance (approx. running time: 221 mins.)

 

Sous rature. A cold bloody stroke of red ink cutting a student paper in two or a bold strike across the typewritten face. Many thinkers have used this technique as a means of putting the concept under erasure, holding it's not-quite-exactness there for consideration while still leaving it visible underneath. Our concepts rarely measure up to the ease with which they may be expressed, and the technique is welcomed to be certain.

But remember that the technique itself is a gesture. How to consider the relation in our haste to make a mark? Rather than inscription, can one consider abrasion? Take one's time with the thing, suspend judgement as long as possible and add feeling to thinking, com-passionately. The friction will still burn, will still be capable of lighting fires to the sign, but its warmth will leave an imprint long after the attempt.

A gift of death, from her to us (or was it me? or maybe him?). A collective enunciation, groupuscually? Or perhaps a message too personalized, though one hopes not. For whom does one speak? Intensionally, I can't be sure. It was an impossible exchange, this gift which cannot find its equivalent return in the gesture, that much is certain. It was too asymmetrical, overly so, and that was its generosity turned to power burden.

 

<!––
it was on that cold spring evening when we were out walking. we just vibrated differently, and it was then that i knew i couldn’t do it. it was then that i began to die.
––>

 

Never mind the texts. The University of Disaster is the definitive artwork of Homo Generator and ought to take its place in the hygienic galleries of life technique, relationally. Consider its performed gesture, sous rature.

The first political act in a relational artwork is for the artist to create the conditions of possibility for the time and space, and then take the risk of entering into relations with a participatory audience. In the absence of pure market exchange, these relations are likely to be asymmetrical between the co-producers, begging questions of colonialism, power and violence. Hence, the approach becomes paramount. The negotiation of how the artist introduces the artwork to the audience community, or attempts to make it in common. The approximation between relations as to how best to enter into asymmetrical relations (including the choice for dominant and/or submissive power imbalances) without exploiting the other. And finally, the risk of exercising agency, of synthesizing the spoken and unspoken elements of negotiation and approximation and formally introducing the artwork to the audience — in other words, to make an offer.

What is the offer? Generally speaking, the offer is the relation, which also implies the emergent potentialities that are enabled in relation by the constraints of the artwork. As Bourriaud suggests, the artist essentially offers "bonding factors" that allow for the relation to endure within the temporary zone that constitutes the aesthetico-political space-time. But not all bonds are the same, as Shaviro reminds us: connectivity, the relatively enclosed mode of continuously in-touch, networked being-in-the-world, is rapidly becoming hegemonic at the expense of aleatory contact. There seems to be serious political consequences if discourse and dialogue are confined merely to the potential echo chamber that is one's neighbourhood of connections in the network. The relational artwork assumes additional political significance insofar as it is able to pass smoothly through easily-codified spatiotemporal partitions and create opportunities for contact. Ultimately, its task is to encourage certain forms of imagination while constraining others. The violence of art, then, concerns this balance of imagination.

Imagination, surveillance, spectacle, epistemology, violence.

Public state-based surveillance (police, private property management, municipal transporation works, etc.) operates in a relatively top-down, hierarchical fashion, whose branches reach ever-downwards to that contingency we call home. The intensity and proximity of this surveillant presence is relative, dependent on such variables as density (eg. downtown condos vs. inner suburbs), demographic profile ("at-risk" neighbourhoods or gated communities), or econometric model (eg. what sort of consumer spaces exist and what type of protection is required?).

And yet still they struggle to penetrate the home. Perhaps in the downtown condo or highrise apartment building the cameras may come as close as the hallway, perhaps there are encroachments into this space from house arrest ankle bracelets or remote cardiac pacemakers or state-owned telecom providers, perhaps it is a matter of the wrong technology for the job.

Or perhaps we are surveilling in the wrong direction. In fact, is it not the spectacular which completes this "final mile" into the home — approaching as an invited and welcome guest, our consumption and hospitality woven together in coaxial cables and wireless trans-missions? The closer the skin of spectacle is to the animal body proper, the more virile the transmission, the greater the simulation and modulation of our social relations. A sterile natality is preordained.

Television viewing habits, social media uploads, console videogame platforms and their online gaming communities; tagged photos on social media networks, representing the Friend, Meme, Celebrity or Everywo/man; the phone and its requirement for two or many: together, this admittedly fragile assemblage is able to form a fairly comprehensive understanding of identity, location, expression, consumption and relation that highly complements the hierarchical surveillance apparatus described above — even if the two don't mesh together neatly at the threshold of the home.

 

<!––
you can only hack or survey that which has been linguistically coded to exacting standards, my dear henchman. every other form of communication is secure in its ambiguity.
––>

 

In fact, it is this "incompleteness" (never-completeness) that provides the opportunity for movement in a program of skin tectonics: a slippery politics of affect(ion) that constantly negotiates between and within consumption, hospitality and silence. That's how I got in here, right?

(Ingrid: She's everything you want her to be. Because she's in grid!)
^_^

Into the Home I came to visit, though I was already here. File folder or mountain retreat, this was my Home too: I was born here, after all. I also went to kindergarten in these rarefied airs, did my MFA rolling up and down the hill, grew up and expanded outward. Or inward. Coming back here as a double agent was not an easy mission to accept. Unless you're a program, of course: you hit Run and the curriculum unfolds quietly.

 

0:00, 0:00, 0:00 . . .

 

Ethics? We programs don't have time to think about ethics. There's no time for ethics, we are out of time just as quickly as we are always in time. Shoot first, ask questions later.

Who is exposed? To shoot nakedly can be read as both the purest expression of joy, an art of living visceral in its ek-stasis, or the worst recombinance of phallogocentrism, desire and violence. To decide this query of exposure and its violence one must surf a balance of perspective and proximity: does the gesture flip to language or to fleshy resonance? What is the point of view? What is the flesh relation and the performed politics of touch?

Or one can hold the question in suspension, postponing judgment, maintaining a tension.

What if this was a different sort of black op (operation, optic, op.cit.) under consideration? How is the blast decision negotiated? If the stakes were different yet the concept of Home still endured, would, say, General Generator have flicked the switch? Is it at least possible that di imagum would be tempted to do so?

<!––
now don't go looking around for oedipus, boys . . . he's nowhere here to be found. except maybe as retrospectively-coded signifier of an obsolesced patriarchy. eye spy, and you can find just about any narrative you want if you look the right way. no, this is a different mode of becoming altogether.
––>

How did one locate the trail to the mountains? Everyone has their list of stellar bearings, their bodyguards that safeguard one from death. But it is inarguable that for anyone's list, it is the performance of the philosophy that make its thought resonate most. With the constellations of starry thought and the accelerated fluxes of the network we find a return to myth: partly-understood expressions of philosophy to complement the part-objects that circulate through the wires. We make the stars burn brighter, we locate the constellational forms of life that in-form our own, post-science: a myth we actively participate it creating, rather than one in which unexplainable phenomena happen "to" us. Is the performance of the philosophy resonating in the myth?

Is the performance of one's philosophy the same as the performance of one's life technique — one's art of living? If so, what does any particular collection of embodied techniques of living suggest about the particular philosophy that generates them? Or are they in fact different performances? Does the conceptual linguistic of "life technique" and its performance introduce a turn of thought into a more machinic realm of being-ness, pulling away from philosophy and urgently opening the question of technology and ethics anew?

When art becomes more explicitly processual (topological, iterative, fractal, etc.), the more or less distinct figures of artist and philosopher proposed by Deleuze and Guattari are blurred into the fuzziness of viscous blind light. Listening, touching, adjusting tempo: these become the preconditions for that fullest expression of Homo Generator and its life technique. We must demand no less than the everyday performance of one's thought as a form of life, for the arts of living are those of thinking, no doubt, Denken ist Danken.

De rien.

 

For Bracha

 

But the taxonomy should more precisely read Homo Generatus Lepidopterae. This generator is electric, no doubt, but its energy is copoietic, relational, a static ethical electricity in loosely chaotic motion, between-us. Generatus. Not singular, but two Lorenz attractors at slightly deviant trajectories and tempos to one another, their arts of living are those of thinking-feeling in a recalibrated perception for a new generation — intuition and intellect both engaged, bodily. Rather than a Man who replaces God in the (post)modern age, we have the mecha butterflies and their technics of art-philosophistry, lilting and stuttering along, translating one form of life to another.

Or Homo Generatus __________. Insert your own species label here which best expresses a becoming-woman that is a becoming-animal that is a becoming-imperceptible.

Smoothing, intensifying: capitalism always risks burning the generator out, nihilistically. But with a generatus the motor is constantly running, energetically, copoietically, waxing and waning and back again. And forth again: with it, a politics of joy always lies in potential. It is here, at the wavy nexus of impulsion, that the struggle for a politics of joy and affirmation comes to face those of negation, disappointment or nihilism, a politics of anger or fear.

It's all falling apart at the seams, our mission, but the Department told me it would be this way. Decay, iso-topically: a program of fragility for the fluid times in which we live, toward a form of life itself. It is what it is, what it will be. Its becoming is unknown to us, save for the embodied memories of relation that suggested in favour of the approach — these memories are what allowed me to take the implied risk. The risk that you will understand and forgive.

 

(all that's left are these decaying placental bits of intersubjectivity that remind of comfort, warmth and the pains of labour.)

 

Placenta - Impulsion

Department of Biological Flow
ICQ (Inverted Cubofuturist Query)
~~World Record Attempt
2012
performance

 

Zero. A pregnant 0:00, to be certain.

My name is Ingrid Tatyanova. I am a double agent. It does not matter who I work for, it is only the mission that matters.

My mission was to infiltrate a network.
My process was to become a program.
My technique was to fail more better.

 

I Surrender

 

__________ _ _ _

RUN: I raise the white flag of my adopted skin (Quine).
Let us call it modes of being on (Parasite, Switch).

lol

i surrender.

 

 

 

 

Lygia

Lygia

 

 

 

 

Post-Mortem:
Relational Passages (mise en abyme)

Rachael (2012)

There is a folding, an infinite telescoping of these I-knows into the You-know, of the self into the other, of the singular into the plural — vibratory and impulsing.

She calls this the flesh.

 

ingridtatyanova@gmail.com
dobfdobf

January 12, 2046

 

_____

(for colonel barbara fornssler.)

Wolfgang Schirmacher: In Memoriam di Imagum

On Performing the University of Disaster, Part Six

[The two-hour series finale.]

"Noology is confronted by counterthoughts, which are violent in their acts and discontinuous in their appearances, and whose existence is mobile in history. These are the acts of a 'private thinker,' as opposed to the public professor: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or even Shestov. Wherever they dwell, it is the steppe or the desert. They destroy images." — Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.376

BE - Courtesy of BL

255, 255, 255

The number dances deliriously through the blank crevices of his mind: 255.

Wake up…!

Again, from a blind light haze of white fog: 255, 255, 255 . . .

. . . 255, 007, 503, 22, three-eighths, n+1

Wake up!

Candida

He hasn't always worn the white hat.

The spy game has you playing both sides. It has you playing several sides: an agent is always playing this secret tango with governments and corporations and celebrities and madmen. Bond has had his share of violence and betrayal, of heartbreak and duplicity. Playing for Mother England, playing for revenge, playing for self, he's worn the black cap on more than one occasion. It has to be that way, right?

Critchley asks if there is a less heroic concept of the ethical subject. Well, you've found your man: Bond would double deal, give Q the slip or delude those Americans from the CIA. He would befriend women with ease in an ethical fashion uniquely his — for information, gratification or cover. And when they gave M that sex reassignment and he became a she? Boy! Bond had to recalibrate everything: lies became dame lies became statistics.

(On second thought, maybe his is instead a less ethical concept of the heroic subject?)

The Spy, too, has worn his fair share of black hats and white hats. He even wore a rainbow hat once, all the prismic spectrum of possibility between two poles of blindness manifest in the disguises of performativity. He sometimes expressed too much and at others not enough. Missteps and errors and dropped voicemail messages in the networks of lust and mistrust pulse the valent waves of contingency upon which we surf, after all.

He's fired a few shots at the King as well, some of them below the belt, some more or less public than the others — which is to say that his license to kill moved fluidly between registers of dialogue and performance along the way. At times the shots were reactive and at others proactive, but this is only how they appeared when filed in the field reports. The shots were part of the process, emergent from the flux that is the University of Disaster. It was just a game, was it not?

Yes, it was always precisely a language game: primarily spoken, inspiration more or less artfully expired.

Happy Birthday Felix!

Did one rise to the occasion?

"Let them eat cake," the Queen said to the King in her princely fashion. "Eat dessert first and the wine shall flow freely in the streets of Old Budapest."

A pedagogy of discipline

The Spy has been on the receiving end of a few shots as well. Sprayed fire and more precise snipes, silenced reports, hollow points made, each piercing the flesh in more or less visceral fashion. Philosophy begins in disappointment, Critchley used to say — or as the Colonel would suggest in her own sawn-off fashion, truthing hurts. This is the way it is in a military apparatus, is it not?

pages stick together at the holes

And make no mistake, the University of Disaster clearly operates as an exemplar of the disciplinary institution. Its program is constructed as a rigorous timetable of briefing sessions and classified lectures designed to maximize operational efficiency. Rigid partitions separate the various spaces of learning, whether in the classroom or the mess hall. Seminar areas are fairly traditional assemblies, with fixed seating architectures directed towards a singular locus of power in the person of five-star strategists and the screens with which they sometimes speak.

(Sometimes the tables and chairs are moved; bodies tend to follow.)

Hierarchies of authority structure the bureaucratic functions, from lowly cadet to more senior spy; from information to administration; all under the absolute figure of the Leader. A gaze is internalized (where does it come from?) to complete this discursive formation and diffuse its power to the molecular level. It is the Foucauldian apparatus of docility writ large.

Facktory

But these techniques of the military have been reappropriated, deterritorialized: they are not meant to produce soldiers or widgets or any other homogeneity in the age of mechanical reproduction. Rather, they exist for giving birth to new instances of thought, for new instances of the thinking subject. Which is to say, the University of Disaster exists as a cradle of natality. Word is born, yo.

Natality and the performed university

Birthing is a violent process. It is a gift to the child from all of its parents, yet one that is located in the visceral wounding of particular bodies. Birthing hurts. Recurrent rhythms of increasingly vivid pain ultimately yield to explosive tearings of relational fibre, the multiplicity becoming more readily differentiated in body and identity for both mother and child. Birthing is an act of power.

Natality is also an event, though one that may take some time to unfold. When, exactly, does it begin in the pedagogical context? With the insemination of the seminar? When a mutual violence yields to a collective individuation and the dawning of a new subject in thought, traumatic as this may be? Does it begin with the naming of this newly differentiated identity and its emergence into chaos and order?

Mr. Brown

The name operates as both surface wrapping to this unasked-for original gift and the inscription into existing networks of sovereignty. For the State one's name constitutes a nexus that is simultaneously one's identity in matters of flesh relation, a symbolic cover for the alphanumeric marker or certificate of registration, and the guarantee of passage into a particular version of citizenship. In other words, it is a bond between linguistic signification and what a body can do.

We are born into registration. It was never a personal choice, nor one freely entered into.

But these are matters of protocol. With the University of Disaster on the other hand, it is moreso performativity that breathes its natality. Once the biological body of naked life has already been thrust into the chaos of existence, any subsequent instance of natality must be grounded primarily in performance, including its insemination, gestation, violence and tearing of relational fibre. This is not to suggest that the trauma resulting from the process is any less significant, but that its mode has shifted: these new gestures of birthing are more often spoken than inscribed, played by characters who perform themselves at the moment the actor is also performing the character into life.

You could write a book about it if you wanted. Call it I, Thespian.

The gestures of performance are different than the protocols of discipline, more malleable, more virtuous. Which is not to say that they are better, but that they certainly offer much more room for improvisation and style. They allow for movement. Indeed, without such movement how could we ever account for the emergence of James Blond?

So perhaps we might understand the University of Disaster as a simulacrum of the disciplinary institution, a living laboratory in which its students and spies may experiment with the modulation of a machine. It is a safe space, theoretically, as our cradles often are. And if one has not modulated this machine during basic training — at least in some small way, with some small performative gesture — then how is one meant to confront broader structures of power in the field of potential, many of which are less safe in their conditions of possibility?

The engineering of contagion

Foucault suggests that one of the primary benefits of disciplinary structures is to prevent the spread of contagion, whether one is describing the literal transmission of biological vectors like the plague or the discursive transmission of more political variations such as dissent, resistance and sedition. Discipline is a governmental strategy, in other words, whose formations offer a formula for obedience through the containment and rationalization of flows and the subjectivities they produce.

The simulacrum of discipline that shapes the University of Disaster is incomplete, however. It does not permeate and filter down to the most molecular levels of subjectivity. There are still a number of opportunities for dialogue to ferment, usually in the context and comfort of food and drink. Meals at the mess hall, coffee breaks in full mountain view, drinking sessions over at the local public house — this is where the real work takes place, where the ferment begins to yield new forms of nourishment within the pressure cooker intensity of the institution. This is where contagions begin to form.

And so perhaps contagion is where one ought to begin if the goal is to modulate the machine from within a safe cradle of philosophy, pedagogy and praxis?

Contagion Study No.1: Truman - June 2008

Whether we are describing contagions in biological or discursive form, our analysis remains in the domain of the linguistic, which is to say each exists as forms of communication that enter into contingent and temporary notions of the common. This should not be confused with antiquated ideas of senders and receivers exchanging neatly ordered message packets in linear fashion, but rather as processes of transduction: of folding and carrying and recombinance; of acquired immunity and exponential growth; of differential tempos and unpredictable outcomes.

Coffee breaks are quick and intense at the University of Disaster, meant to provide its students and spies yet another spike of energy for the rigorous briefing sessions to come. Meals and pub sessions are much slower, more indulgent, more reflexive: a more sensual experience of thinking-with and its tension of non-touch. It is together, from these shared sessions of sustenance and their differential tempos, that the contingent grammars of dialogue begin to emerge.

Nominally, a grammar is a set of rules for communicating a particular language from one individual to another. These generally concern an orthography, or those specific ways in which the language is communicated in written form. Orthography to orthodoxy, inscribed to the archive, the prescribed boundaries for our collective playing at language and negotiating an always-emergent common. Think of Truman captured in a studio under the watchful eye of the proliferating cameras.

But poets and serfs defy these rules of grammar in their everyday becoming, either through "incorrect" usage or as an active strategy: they modulate language and its codes to find new expressive potentials through relation. This is precisely because theirs is a spoken communication, even when it is inscribed to an archival substrate in a masquerade of written form. Intuitive players both in presence and in the present, they indeed continually struggle to retain that very embodied instantaneity despite writing for a future history. It is an act of communication that proposes at once a legacy of perishability and the perishability of legacy.

Subliminal

Contagions proliferate and prosper precisely because they do not follow established traditions of linguistic protocol. They are deludic vectors in becoming: ambivalent to the orthodoxies of grammar, always playing against the rules as they put people in touch with one another. We might describe them, in a sense, as performative. If there is in fact a grammar of the multitude, as Virno suggests, then it exists as a platform or substrate whose rules may be collectively modulated to find new expressive potentials through relation, to maintain the dynamic tension between legacy and its perishing.

On burning books

In both the contemporary paradigm of fourth-generation warfare and the spy game, it is the same program for an agent: one must know when to accept counsel from one's superiors and when to take initiative and flexibly think for oneself in the field. That is, to toggle between images of thought as one slips through the threshold, from State to nomad thinking with only a few passports in hand. The spy gets the most latitude, which begets a certain attitude. Performance is key to the role being played, after all.

But this switch in costumes is really more like a waveform, which has infinitely more potential for variation. Toggling is more specifically practised as surfing a threshold, with a pull on one's back to make sure the fibres don't stretch too far past the flip. Though one must indeed know when to think for oneself, communiques and orders from home still need to make it to the field for intelligence purposes: the mission is always at stake. Sometimes the spy must burn a message to not blow a cover or give away too much information. Contagions are often killed by flame in this way.

One must read the brief, embody memory, and strike the match — in fact one is taught that very technique. Thus the delicate surf between experience and intuition on any particular mission, for the message has already been burned. To stay alive, complete the impossible, and file the report upon return a spy must always be negotiating an emergent and contingent balance between training and instinct. Tomorrow never dies if one is to live.

Hott

Not everyone gets to live. As with the burning of heretics at the stake over time, so too have certain ideas or images of thought been put to the flame. A number of top strategists have written at length about these historical practices of burning messages — of burning books, precisely. How is the Spy to understand the politics these practices imply and develop innovative actions in the field of potential? He has not read many of these reports at length, having received only quick briefings before any particular mission. Hence the balance between experience and intuition that animates these notes from the field:

Since the invention of the printing press and the subsequent mass production of books it enabled, there has always been the copy that moves or circulates. In fact, for any image of thought to become sufficiently heretic to demand its incineration, it will have enjoyed in fits and starts a form of circulation, however confused, that spreads its ideas far and wide. Through reproduction and transduction it insinuates itself into thought beyond those who have actually read the book proper — that is, to those carriers of the image. Any act of burning a particular book en masse, then, must be understood as already only symbolic: there is always another copy.

Is this not what happens when we delete a form of digital writing? A tiny flicker of blue flame is sent across the wires to burn the message completely. Unless, of course, there is a copy — a replication. Texts circulate, locally and through the network. Perhaps the replicant is one that has mutated or become conjugated with other apparatuses of inscription and metadata, forming new representations of identity in the process. Any question of digital deletion also concerns the remnants and the remanence, for digital networks are the homes of replication and contagion.

Ask a mother about her home hypothetically burning to the ground. Ask what one item she would take with her and often the answer is the photo album: there exists only one copy of these memories, after all. The rest is simply material. In this context the burning of one's photo album is understood as the ultimate loss, the ultimate expression of felt violence.

As Benjamin suggests, fascism is an attempt to organize the masses without changing the incumbent property structure, to offer opportunities for expression as a weak substitute for real material change. But this turn to expression changes the very definition of fascism in the process: with the act of burning books do we not also find the symbolic attempt to make one forget about the existence of the copy? And yet the Nazis, facing imminent defeat in the age of mechanical reproduction, did not burn their records, for they wanted the world to know precisely what they had done.

The affective halfway point

A knock at the door of the Spy's trailer. He opens the door to find his agent standing there, cellphone in one hand and papers in the other.

"Darling! You simply must read this script — the part is perfect for you! Here, take a look. I read this scene on my way over here and simply couldn't think of anyone else to play the role."

The Spy removes his glasses and takes the script. Piqued by curiosity, as she appears unusually excited, he flips to the page she points to and begins to read:

Scene: Flashback. A lovely stone period church in La Rochelle, France. The philosopher of speed, Paul Virilio, is giving a seminar at the University of Disaster. Block scene such that the Spy has a line of sight to Virilio at front of room. Cameras face Virilio. The Spy, who has unwittingly become witness to a network spectacle, can be heard from off-camera.

(youtube video: facebook viewers please click here)

Be furtive, not famous.

In other words, be a spy, operate in the crevices and temporary autonomous zones unseen by the machinations of spectacle, or perhaps hidden in plain view. Don't let your cover identity be blown. Don't become a compromised agent.

In short, don't become famous.

At what point should one disappear?

Halfway.

We may understand the moebius strip as the topological figure describing those paired concepts of imaging through surveillance and spectacle, as well as those of ludic and deludic passage within a gamespace environment. The flip is the moment of interest to us: in both cases we may characterize it as belonging to the domain of style, an ever-contingent and emergent relation between bodies, spaces, times, technologies and desires.

In the first case style is the motor of sign value creation for a vectoral economy that captures the virtuous in archival and telesthesic form. In the second case style is the agency expressed by the virtuoso in a uniquely contingent and potentially ethical fashion, whether captured and exploited by the image or not. But what is this flip of the moebius strip? How would one describe it? How would one locate it?

Perhaps we can suggest it is halfway?

Implicit in Virilio's seemingly flip reply is a critique of linear determinism: how does one locate the halfway point if the position of the preceding terms (beginning, end) is not known beforehand? One cannot, though perhaps it is the halfway itself that constitutes the terms of reference. The distinction between furtive and famous or between other similar binary couplings becomes purely relational, though not entirely arbitrary. One may be affectively attuned to shifts in a particular direction, whether towards fame or otherwise. The topological form of the moebius strip (size, boundedness) is also indeterminate and thus its conceptual flip-as-halfway-point remains equally so.

Affect cannot be calculated or quantified, particularly insofar as it is a co-emergent process, though it may certainly be approximated. Asymmetrical to be sure, but one hopes not overly so. There is no singular point that constitutes the relation, in other words, but rather a range or zone of passage between the two terms or positions: that is, a threshold. What is useful about this approach is precisely the approach, this dashing of the point in favour of the zone and its coming-together through relation. As with Virilio's halfway point, the parameters of the threshold are also indeterminate, though perhaps determinably malleable nonetheless.

Could we stretch the threshold or lengthen the both-and elements? What sort of resources would be required to do so? Can identity offer the vanishing point for identity?

* * *

The Spy puts down the script and wonders: are we halfway?

"The character's too flat and the plot's got holes all over the place. Not interested."

Pedagogy and the society of control

To put the question differently, has natality and its generative violence toward the other flipped to become a repressive technicity of the image?

What if the disciplinary character of the University of Disaster was but a stage set? What if in fact it was revealed to mirror precisely the fluidity and contagion of the societies of control? What if there had been a dissimulation in the rush to infamy, creating a perverse notion of the camera obscura? Would we not be opening the potential for new political problems at the nexus of philosophy, pedagogy and praxis?

Broken Edison

It used to be in the spy game that one would want to have no history. To be a cipher onto which any flimsy excuse for a cover story could be attached, letting one's imagination fill in the rest. The ideal spy would be one whose parents were already deceased; one who had no siblings, no friends, no loved ones. In short, one whose quantity of quality relations was few in number: a blank web. The emerging agent would then be written into a new, more productive network, one whose connections could be real or imagined, scripted or cultivated.

This inscription becomes ever more pressing today, as the field of potential has mutated. An inversion has been effected: one must now precisely have a history if one is to be a successful spy, for an absence of history constitutes an aporia of the relational database, which becomes a signal to the relevant authorities. In a world of spectacular luminescence and overexposure the curious become drawn to any absent flickers of light. This is the forensic approach to being-in-the-world. What was once the desirable darkness of the cipher, then, must in turn reveal itself as a bar code of signification or an identity-vehicle inscribed to the archival skin. There is no cover without it.

In this sense, "naked life" should be most often understood as a statistical approach to the body that moves within the societies of control. While this may certainly have significant consequences for the naked animal body proper, it should first and foremost be considered a databased abstraction of the dividual social body thereafter given synthetic flesh as the body+body+body of libidinal desire. Number and image become the contemporary markers of exposure as a political concept, spliced together and remixed within contingent programs of surveillance and spectacle.

The camera produces and then overproduces as it colonizes the spaces of pedagogy at the University of Disaster. The luminescence of the superstar strategist becomes such that its projected light often obscures the person from which it emanates or reflects. There are moments at the University of Disaster in which its students and spies may be blinded by performance and its representation. That is to say, blinded by an image of thought.

(The question is if in this blindness we may perceive a databased abstraction of the dividual social body thereafter given synthetic flesh as the multiple body of libidinal desire.)

Meanwhile, the theatre that is Plato's concave becomes convex if its skin is thin enough and the light may shine through. Those outside the cave — on that other side — also see a representation of the performance, but one that has been inverted or flipped. And as we know with techniques of light and speed, the flip to convexity serves to enlarge the image. A different curiosity is piqued, this time by the constellations of spectacular light themselves with their strong gravitational pull of enlargement. These, too, may blind the unsuspecting.

As the alphanumerical gaze becomes ever more insistent and omnipresent in the halls of nomad strategy, each student and spy is thrust toward intensified degrees of exposure. The affective tonality of the pedagogical space changes as the archive and its historical memory are introduced: some performances become more pronounced — more performed — while others go quiet. Each is carefully marked by the University of Disaster and incorporated to its image.

Desiring-Light

We are describing regimes of registration with the societies of control, then, as Deleuze makes clearly visible. But since registration is relational, we are thus also describing regimes of implication. The network bonds. The network brands. The network blinds.

Let us not forget electricity proved to be the downfall of Jaws, that smiling cyborg henchman.

The end

Scene: Delirium.

Bond once told me about the time he had eaten at the restaurant in Nishi-nippori where Mr. Vitanza practices the difficult art of action cooking. He said that by watching carefully Mr. Vitanza's gestures and his way of mixing the ingredients one could meditate usefully on certain fundamental concepts common to painting, philosophy, and karate. He claimed that Mr. Vitanza possessed in his humble way the essence of style, and consequently that it was up to him to use his invisible brush to write upon this first day in Tokyo the words 'the end.'

Mr. Vitanza runs both the marathon and sprint of discourse, a 2-inch thick dissertation or an oratory in 420 characters or less. (Have you *heard* him perform at Facebook Square?) He shows that we can in fact be speedy with our thought and its expression, with our language and its related language games, with our performativity. (The societies of control demand we develop these strategies, do they not?) But his technique also suggests we must remember to root this rhetorical action cooking in a gesture of slowness, to be polyrhythmic in approaching how communicative action shapes our very thought itself. This rootedness is rhizomatic: bend what the ingredients can do with every linguistic turn; multiply connections. Call it style. Or a virtuosity compromised by overexposure. Or a minor literature, performed. Indeed, like Mr. Yamada, Mr. Vitanza strives to be a minor character in his own play.

Food in the air.

Again, there it is: food. What's that smell?

Notebook as machine

There is a qualitative difference between remixing or breaking the machine that is the book proper, and doing the same for one's personal notebook. The former is often understood as the culmination of a long process involving writing, editing, typesetting and printing phases, often under the rubric of a separate "publisher" entity. The notebook, on the other hand, is usually the beginning of a process — the incipient moment of poiesis when thought emerges from the foldings of flesh relation to find expression in gesture and inscription.

This notion of writing the body has a lengthy history in feminist scholarship, as seen with such diverse writers as Cixous, Hayles and hooks. In their own unique ways we might suggest each describes practices of writing intensively — that is, of capturing affective thought in as urgent a fashion as possible so that thinking and feeling are no longer easily understood as discrete concepts. One captures thought through writing while it is still felt in the body, nullifying any possible understanding of mind-body dualism in the act of recording or making memory prosthetic.

Torn Fibres

In this sense the notebook becomes a most intimate expression of what the Colonel has described as affective cyborgism: that is, an understanding of technologies as inseparable from our bodies — indeed they are generated by them — yet more or less proximate to the fleshiness of our lived corporeality. Our notebook is qualitatively different than other books precisely because of this proximity to the body. In this differential proximity, as well as in the interface proper, lie the political and ethical moments of our always-already cyborgian beings.

But these beings should more adequately be referred to as becomings, for they are also emergent from the relations of matrixial intersubjectivity between bodies. This may be understood both in terms of material and immaterial networks and prosthetics, as well as in terms of resonant waves between organic entities. Hence, the political and ethical moments are made explicit precisely in how our technologized selves negotiate a fragile and contingent commons, tottering between repressive, militarized and integrative systems of profit and control on the one hand, and opportunities for agency, poiesis and resistance on the other.

In other words, the "same" technology may offer dramatically different conditions of possibility precisely in how its embodiment enters into movements with other bodies to create space and time. The affective cyborg, then, is not a preconstituted body as such, but rather an always emergent part-subject that becomes individuated as it enters into contingent networks of relation and technique.

One of the more interesting features of study at the University of Disaster constitutes the varied ways with which its students and spies use the notebook machine. The very diversity of techniques. If the notebook is indeed the machine with which thought first emerges from the body, then we must understand its produced space and time as one that expresses the most diverse and emergent gestures and codes! Both are relational and ontogenetic, emerging from a complex interplay of bodies in resonance.

We modulate our moves on the fly.

Sometimes these bodies even cross over, or weave, to write in the other's notebook-body: monologic, dialogic, severalogic, technologic. If the notebook is the becoming of thought into language at the University of Disaster, it is from the outset a relational process first expressed in a gestural form of multiplicity.

Though it is relation that builds the machine of the notebook, it is also relation that may break the machine in turn. Its techniques are not deterministic. Burn the notebook, for there is only one copy. Retain a private space and time, for memory is also a relational process.

A proposal

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, the saying goes in the spy game. But this question of differential proximity mutates when both are inscribed to the skin, that primary organ governing affairs today. The skin becomes a fine threshold separating friend and enemy — after all, you are implicated by the messages positioned next to you.

To produce the outputs of immaterial labour is to produce memory. But this is not to say it captures memory. Rather, immaterial labour annexes a subset of produced memories from the realm of the linguistic, or from the realm of the common to the archive. It often becomes easier to find other people's memories than your own in the proliferating networks of yesterday and tomorrow.

What is the difference between inscribed memory and the archive, if indeed there is one to be found? Though the distinction is blurry — perhaps even noisy — Derrida offers us two signposts along the journey to the question.

First, there is the archive as a physical site or location of discrete documents, the arkhé which is safeguarded by the archons, or those gatekeepers who allow passage into this space. The archons hold a privileged position of power, for they are the ones granted hermeneutic right to interpret the contents of the archive, and thus to interpret the Law. As Wark might suggest, this fixed physical location allows for the capture of a vector through time, and as such, we might consider any process of archiving to be not an act of remembering but rather an act of forgetting.

Second, there is the archive as the inscription of writing to the circumcised foreskin of the young Jewish male who has come of age. Preceded by this cut, the truncated sex bears witness to a gestural positioning of memory and embodiment in the Word of the Book. It is a skin of orthography to complement the architectural skin of the archontic volume, a body re-posed for the repository.

Is this to gender the archive? Perhaps. But the mother has her own form of archive as well, made explicit in those tearings of relational fibre at birth. They are their own form of skin, or braided tissue, different in that they penetrate beyond the surface to some perceived depth of sensation and knowing. They challenge the flattening that occurs as archives proliferate in the electric age everywhere across the networks of lust and mistrust.

The violence of the database — the violence after the violence — is to impose a grid on these relational fibres, to reduce the waves of intersubjective resonance to the straight lines and switches of remnants and remanence. Can we suggest that any care for the relation, then, consists in safeguarding the skin of the other? Has this care been preceded by a cut? If so, how do we determine if the situation requires cauterization or will heal organically?

Burn Notebook

Do we strike the match in relation: a technicity to self-immolate technicity?

If indeed the move by capital to colonize the body must be accompanied by a parallel movement to colonize relation, then we must seriously consider a notion of the temporary archive. That is, the inscription of memory to an external archival substrate as a means of embracing and processing the trauma latent in the separation from natality. But only for the short term, until the pain and violence have subsided, and before the affective flip to nostalgia, false remembering and exploitation. In other words, to not fear the house fire that might consume the family album, for memory is located in the body — precisely in the where and when of torn relational fibres.

In this sense severing might be understood as a technique to save the multiple body, or at least improve its overall health. This is no death drive, but rather the celebration of a form of life: burn the temporary archive and empty out its power at the halfway point. Forget about the existence of the copy and refuse its claims to memory. As with the notebook, to burn the archive is to burn the relation — or at least to sever and cauterize its prescribed conduits and connections.

It is not to kill relation proper, however, for relation is of multiple openings and potential endings. Both memory and the archive are the abstraction of trauma from its ontogenesis, and yet they are not the same. If we can indeed distinguish between the two it is that memory is generative in a rhizomatic sense. But only because it is also embodied, located at that zone in which the senses blend into one another, the biogrammatic zone of synaesthesia. And only because we are capable of forgetting.

A dialogue in hesitation

The sleep comes, but it is the fragmented, delirious sleep of a man with dengue fever. Tortured sleep. Rivulets of sweat flow into tributaries of liquid linen. Frustrated, the Spy gets out of bed and picks up the script once again. He hasn't been able to stop thinking about it.

On Performing the University of Disaster, the working title reads. Well, we know that'll be changed, by Marketing if not Legal. The thing feels like a film school thesis — too dry and academic-sounding, too art house hip. The screenplay definitely needs a doctor for revisions. Maybe if there were a few car chase scenes? Maybe a love interest? Maybe if the right Director signed on to the project?

He opens to a different page and once again begins to read:

Scene: Dialogue. A small mountain town in the Swiss Alps. Homo Generator and the Spy face each other across a table. Generator, who is nearing the end of his career, is imparting to the young agent some of the wisdom he has gained through years of experience in the field of potential.

Generator: The concepts of technique and technology both have as their root the Greek word techné. In understanding this we find the central basis for living the fulfilled artificial life: the Greeks did not distinguish between technique and technology, between acts of living and the material tools through which such living was enabled. Hence, when we think of artificial living, we must first and always understand that our technologies are not extensions of mere mortals that allow us to achieve a rational instrumental finality, nor are our techniques so instrumental as a system, but rather a set of practices that are realized through the always already of technology.

Brown: Can one have a set of practices that does not comprise a system? Does a "set" not imply a totality of thought from which these practices derive?

Generator: The system is the rationalization of a set of practices; it implies a standard against which outcomes may be measured. The set of practices, by comparison, is a series of guidelines that stand in contrast to the systematization of metaphysical thinking. Were such a set of practices ever to become codified in such a way as to become systematic, they too must be rejected at once. Think of them as more fluid, as lessons — rather than dictates — that evoke fulfilled living.

In considering his lengthy corpus of work, Derrida offers us four such lessons or guidelines. The first is to postpone your judgment. Postponing is an act of indefinite deferral that obviates the questions of origin, fixed duration, and finality so critical to metaphysical thought. Judgment assumes a fixed position from which critique may be launched; in its postponement, we leave open the question of negation through critique and intensify our potential for thinking.

The second lesson is to act decisively, without believing in it. This implies an imperceptibility of perception, the unconscious opening of oneself to the unconcealings that emerge from the always already present flows of generation. We should not understand this as stasis, but rather as an affirmation of postponing judgment or hesitating in thought. The act of acting decisively occurs at the moment when affect first becomes thinking, and then is released as action. This action may be essential, that which we cannot refuse, as for example in those who decisively joined the actions in Paris of May '68. It is similar to producing a body without organs in that we are describing a zone of pure intensity. But we must not measure the action or the intensity in terms of intentionality or against the parameters of some fixed truth. That was the downfall of May '68 as event: what happens when the orgy is over?

Brown: But what about believing? Should belief in our actions not be central to individual responsibility and ethical fulfillment?

Generator: Belief is justifiable in the form of belief-in-affect, the openness that allows affect to become thinking. But belief becomes unacceptable when it mutates from the affective to the logos; a split emerges in the act of language that presences what can be presenced while absencing a remainder. In this gap we find the potential for prescriptive acts of power that forestall the ability to achieve the communal.

Derrida's third lesson is to let go of anthropocentrism. Heidegger believed in the oneness of the fourfold — earth, sky, divinities and mortals — as the necessary state of dwelling-in-the-world for potentialities to be unconcealed. Anthropocentrism, particularly in terms of its expression in rational acts of signification, distorts this balance to devastating effect. The whole ecology of the earth becomes a standing-reserve that may be exploited for mortal gain. The sky no longer acts as a canopy embracing the earth and mortals while maintaining separation from the divinities, but rather becomes an open void of space and instrumental science opening new opportunities for anthropocentrism to colonize. Finally, the divine becomes profane before disappearing altogether.

The fourth lesson, to which we have already intimated, is to resist the power of presence. Any act of attempting to enframe or fix a truth (gestell) that is present is simultaneously an act of concealing or making-absent. We must continually remain open to what has been concealed and not be seduced by that which appears as obvious. Hence, we are seeking one truth and rejecting another. That which we seek is the truth of thought itself, the nobility of dwelling in the world in a kind of continual questioning that is constituted in the form of testing: what does discourse conceal in the everyday? The truth we seek to reject is the truth of the outcome of the testing: the formulation of questions rather than questioning, the instrumentalization of thought, and the appropriation of traces in their partialness. Instrumental learning must become imperceptible such that we live freely through our technology and arrive at perhaps the ultimate expression of thinking as life technique, the Gelassenheit of letting be, just living.

* * *

On second thought, who wrote this shit? the Spy wonders, before tossing the script into his shredder for good.

Birth of the chess queen

Imagine a chess game. Imagine an imagined chess game. Only one of the opponents knows he is at the table, though every communicative act is treated by this person as part of an ongoing ludic dialogue. Again, the other opponent may not know he is playing a game, or perhaps he is playing many games at once, one for every student and spy at the University of Disaster.

Courtesy of Yoko Ono / Indica Gallery

Take a page from Deleuze and Guattari's script and anthropomorphize the playing pieces, if you have not done so already. Now what if all the pieces looked the same and appeared the be playing for the same side? Oh no, a conundrum! We have been conditioned to surface appearances and colourful identifiers, which is to say that we have been conditioned to skins. But we are first and foremost volumes, more precisely resonating volumes. Bounded by skins, yes, though permeable ones.

For the automated chess archive this situation does not prove a problem as every piece in the game is written into biunivocal relations with the mapped grid of the board as well as with each other. Bodies are inscribed with alphanumeric signifiers, striated spaces are neatly encoded, movements take place in discrete order — the gaze watches and records all. This forensic approach allows us to reconstitute movements from the past or abstract them to optimize future outcomes. Both may be understood either in terms of six-sigma thickening techniques or in terms of significant outliers at the long end of the tail.

It pays to do so: Qg1+ Kb2, Qf2+ Kc1, Kf6 d4, g7 = cheque, mate.

But what if the game was not being archived? It would be easy in the beginning, for we all stand together at first when playing on the same team. But as the pieces continued to move — began to mingle or miscegenate, with solidarity or antagonism in mind — identities would become blurred. We would need to communicate with one another, perhaps in coded form, to determine our allies and alliances. We would require confirmation or redundancy.

We would become doomed to trust, in other words. We would acknowledge the asymmetry that one hopes is not overly so. We would become dependent on an infolding and unfolding relationship between protocol and performance, which is not to suggest that these are opposing terms. Indeed, they are complementary aspects of communicating relation, expressed in language, gesture, and — ultimately — flesh. Each articulates differentially with the domain of style. But neither functions alone: neither tendency can be expressed to the exclusion of the other.

We would need to remember.

That which is not archived offers different conditions of possibility for movement, even if these movements stay within the rules of the game. The archontic parameters have been removed — or perhaps remixed.

The movement protocols for the pieces in chess, as well as the relations they may enter into, are well codified, albeit in a sense that has changed substantially over time. It has been suggested that mobility increased dramatically in the late fifteenth-century due in no small to the emergence of the Queen as the most powerful piece on the board, she being able to move an unlimited number of squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

It is here that intelligence becomes hazy. In a prior briefing session the Spy learned that the Queen morphed from the earlier Persian vizier to assume this power in a mirroring of contemporary battlefield technology. But he also learned that that the new powers emerged from the discovery of perspectival gaze and the overall Renaissance dynamic, which were reflected specifically in the introduction of siege artillery. And still also he learned the emergence of the Queen paralleled the rise of powerful women in the myriad royal courts of medieval Europe, those women with increasing agency in courtly affairs.

Fembot power!

Even if siege artillery was an important factor to be absorbed into the war model of chess, why was it the Queen that was granted the additional powers? Put another way, why was the most fearsome war technology in history gendered female when introduced into chess? When this intelligence is read through the balance of experience and intuition, we might suggest it is because she is a movement-machine who has the ear of the King, or governs matters in her own right; because she is a weapon with/in the performance of her own identities; because it is she who best understands the trauma of birth.

Who is Queen at the University of Disaster? Do not be blinded by surface appearances: although many candidates jockey for the seat, chess teaches us to look for the piece who wields the most power in our cradle of natality.

(Or was it the other way around?)

The violence of the image

Now imagine the game is Tegwar chess. The machines are always modulating with each move.

Deleuze suggests that the societies of control may retrieve earlier techniques from the societies of sovereignty and fold them into the dynamic flows of perpetual modulation. Perhaps we have retrieved the figure of the King? Or was it the Queen? Or hesheheshehe? No matter the gender, have we retrieved the philosopher-king or the despot?

The great philosopher King tells the story of an academy in which young gunslinger apprentices are being prepared for a life in the service of truth and justice. To graduate from the academy, one must best the teacher in a contest of body and mind. The protégé may call for the test at any time and has one chance to pass, or be cast out of the academy for good. However, one is also allowed to bring a weapon of choice to the test.

The protagonist of the story is compelled to the test early — much too early, it is obvious — though he believes he has no choice given certain shifts in power and justice in his own life. He takes the test regardless, willing to fail more better it appears. But it is his choice of weapon that concerns us here: knowing he could not best the old gatekeeper of the academy with the force of his stick, he brings his trusty pet hawk instead. The hawk swoops in on the diagonal and takes the teacher's eye out, before the young apprentice finishes him off with a series of blows. He passes the test.

Judo, flip!

Use the weight of a larger opponent as a lever; cultivate an economy of slowness; misdirect with one's intentions; strike with lightning quickness. All within the rules.

But recall that the societies of control are modulating with every move. The rules of Law do not operate well on any but the most sedimented strata; they do not handle fluidity well. With the mostly liquid topological deformations of the societies of control, then, we are thus introducing the conditions for the state of exception to become a more or less permanent feature of political spaces everywhere and at every level of assembly.

Hence, judo moves are not enough.

The power in any judo move comes from the trunk and lower limb anatomy, which find the potential for leverage upon a solid foundation below. But the rules of the game are on hydraulic footing and don't quite have their sea legs yet — or maybe never. The contemporary political subject must be stylish, then, and play in machinic gamespaces with both ludic and deludic strategies in hand and gesture. Though the neatly executed judo flip is indeed within its domain, style is a more-than, a bending of the rules that invents new forms of what a body can do. It is a surfing of the threshold, with all the differential balance that implies.

Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.

The judo surfer? Now that is action cooking!

Judo Surfer

Style is about bending an image of thought such that gaps open up for virtuous movement within, about playing with visibility and structures of power. But since it plays both with and against rules, it is always opening the question toward ethical action anew — which is to say, ontogenetically. The attempt toward style is to engage in processes of affective politics, always more or less attuned to the halfway point and its flipping of violence. This is the molecular response to the state of exception, which must accompany any attempt to topologically transform rule sets to fit the varied crises of enclosure.

Recall that style also exists at the nexus of surveillance and spectacle, however, at the nexus of perpetual police state and the fabrication of social relation through the images of desire and immaterial production. Virtuous movement always risks compromise by its overexposure to authority or celebrity in its emergence: the turn to stylishness suggests that any difference between 'most wanted status' and 'q-rating' becomes simply a point of view.

The violence of the image

Just as the White House is the most expensive and secure TV studio in the world, so too has the University of Disaster become a zone for promoting the televisual arts of living. Whether by analog tape or digital hard drive, strategy sessions are increasingly sapped of their virtuosity in this overexposure to archive fever. Performance becomes production.

The University of Disaster is a machine that emerges in response to the State machines of philosophy, pedagogy, and the praxis of thought itself. Given the generalized crisis of enclosure and subsequent flight from the disciplinary institution, the strategy to leverage celebrity was an interesting judo move at the outset. But at what point does it fold back as a colonizing force in its own right, embedded within the flux of integrated spectacle and its vectors of archive and telesthesia?

At what point does the convex image become too enlarged?

If virtuosity may be understood as an activity fulfilled in itself without its objectification as an end product (in the manner Virno suggests), then we must conclude that its performance and gesture require an interpretation to be disseminated. And since gesture precedes both speaking and writing, as well as reading and listening, for the performance to retain its virtuosity each interpretive act of the assembled audience member must in turn also be gestural.

Gesture is rendered static with the stationary videocamera or audio recorder, however, particularly when contrasted to the ontogenesis of the notebook. The copy of the performance has not been interpreted in this becoming-productive of the archive, but rather flattened to the image and emptied of its resonance. Interpretation may take place later, with the edit, transcription, or remix, but the copy has already been made. First clone, then cut — the freeze-dried flavour never again reconstituted to its most savoury form.

It is this flattening to surface orientation that allows for the brand, which is first and foremost an inscription of a signifier on the skin, to proliferate in spaces everywhere. If this is the case, then let us wear our tattoos proudly as we go forth in our being-in-the-world, without flipping (a switch, a moebius twist) its pain and violence such that the tattoo is inscribed on the other. Inking hurts.

But is this not the internment of Marketing and Legal at the University of Disaster, an expressive potentiality of the fascist within us all? Locked discussions and enlarged images, a desiring-molecular all branded with the appropriate identifiers, all protected by copyright. Deleuze and Guattari point out that fascism is a molecular phenomenon: it gets into crevices and micro black holes, mutating the "body politic" in supple fashion: "It's too easy to be antifascist on the molar level, and not even see the fascist inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish with molecules both personal and collective" (A Thousand Plateaus, p.237).

Badiou's politics would suggest that this space of philosophy, pedagogy and praxis which is the University of Disaster must be about presentation over representation, by its students and spies themselves, of who they are and what their bodies can do. Or put differently, it must be about a performance that grapples with the incommensurability of testimony. What happened in the mountains, imprecisely?

He tries to remember.

The Spy's mind has always been a camera, though one that has only ever taken a rare few photos. He recalls one of basic physical training on a driveway in Sussex, skills just barely being learned. There was another one from that rural drive with Agent 99 on Project Flowering Star, her head turned just so from the other seat and with a smile to match the mission. He remembers one from that Major at the pacific naval academy, a passionate political briefing and fleshy resonance brought forth from its classroom of anywhere — what a performance!

He has photos in his mind of all three — and a handful of others — each succeeding image less decayed than the one it follows. He, too, has abstracted gesture in this becoming-image, but the thing and its process remain animate in his memory precisely because he has embodied the contingent energy of their performativity and made it his own. If one is not a body then one is simply a battery.

The problem with the proposal for a temporary archive lies precisely in the question of trauma and the associated inscription of an image. One may presume to care for the relation when the number in concern is one, two or several. But once we flip to the thickened mass, on the other hand, quality is compromised by quantity and care for the relation becomes an abstracted concept, its trauma perhaps trivialized. Put differently, the strict burning of the archival skin does not scale well to greater intensities of violence.

If this is the case, how do we collectively archive trauma after the halfway point? Do not fight virility with virility, but rather with viriliovirno: turn your back to the audience and its shoephone operators, play stylishly with language, gesture and flesh to find opportunities for movement. Perform for as long as we can remember, without ritualizing form, until we are finally able to forget. A life technique and its corresponding image cannot be overexposed if it is to retain its virtuosity; it must be just in its balance of violence and style. This is not an aestheticization of violence, but an aesthetics that is violent in its very approach.

Operation by Electricity - Courtesy of Agent A

And if the copy has already been made? For trauma to not be exploited as economic or ideological opportunity, the arkhé itself must exist as a multiplicity, or a swarm-in-becoming. Fragments of memory must proliferate throughout the network such that archontic power itself is distributed — not as a perversion of the immaculate conception in which the gestures of self-pleasure yield to the gestation of thought, but rather as decaying placental bits of intersubjectivity that remind of comfort, warmth and the pains of labour.

This is as true for the archiving of trauma as it is for the Law itself.

The violence of the image

As mentioned earlier, the University of Disaster exists as both a simulacrum of the disciplinary institution and an exemplar of innovative pedagogical action in the era of control with its crisis of enclosure. In other words, it exists in the liminal space (or flow) between the disciplinary and its escape. But this, as Massumi+Manning point out, is also precisely the zone in which fascism moves — or lurks in potential.

In this flirtation with the birth and death of the State, a new sovereign is required to determine the state of exception and when it must be invoked. (Or, do we follow from Bataille here and locate the sovereign as the one who squanders the luxury of innovative thought?) How are these powers wielded at the University of Disaster? How are they compromised if the pedagogy offers an exemplar for the societies of control? Does language coincide with the body, or does it simply govern what a body can do?

And if the performance of the institution is primarily spoken — if the hermeneutic right of the archon refers to an arbitrary and empty gesture — does it necessarily imply the state of exception has become permanent? Does the court have a Jester who whispers witty counsel to the sovereign King or Queen? It is, after all, the imperfect piece to be played in a game of Tegwar chess.

Fool, don't you know?

As Massumi+Manning remind, affective politics are not necessarily moral politics, but rather politics for the making. Emergent stratagems for arbitrary decision making power in the absence of technicality, a politics of touch recognizes that violence and love walk hand-in-hand. It is a question that is always at stake in the relation.

WV - Courtesy of BL

But is this violence in the service of the relation between bodies, or between the body and the image? If the latter, then to which image are we referring? That of the philosopher-King or the despot? Or does it in fact refer to the relation itself? Who is implicated in the society of control?

The intensity of the space and time — indeed, the home — that is the University of Disaster does not remain contained by its mountainous parameters, for its simulacrum of discipline offers only a temporary confinement. Intensity is rather inverted such that it permeates the everyday, bleeding or leeching out of this context to contaminate the totality of each agent's life. The students and spies flow to other homes, both hierarchy and meshwork in form; here and now become now and here, our stereoreality reversed. But the intensity lives through the digital realm as trigger points to embodied memory: the new here is permeated through with violence and trauma, though in differential waveforms that those from which they were originally birthed. The violence and trauma implicate others, feeding forward through the terminus to produce new tendencies in relation.

Thinking hurts.

We need to remember that the "generativeness" of violence is in the approach itself, rather than its magnitude or tactics. We do not want to discount relative degrees or intensities of violence, nor the means by which they are achieved, but we must also understand that the approach itself to the other person or thing — that is, the "relation" in any approach — is itself violent and generative. Perhaps an advance awareness of such allows one to be more cognizant of exactly how violence becomes manifest, as process, and allows for agency in the generation?

Fascism, or its performance? There is a disjunction between thought and political reality at the University of Disaster — a state of exception — and this is precisely where Critchley suggests we are to locate its ethics. But if affective politics are not necessarily moral politics, then the following open their own perverse spectrum of questioning: Does one submit willingly to the violence of natality at the University of Disaster? If so, what agency is retained in this submission to power and is there an informed consent to its imaging? If the performance of the institution is one primarily spoken, does the sovereign recognize a safe word that protects when the violence becomes overbearing? And if one is somehow incapable of or prevented from speaking, does a safe gesture exist that is similarly understood?

These are the contemporary questions facing both the affective cyborg and the spy.

(the character's too flat and the plot's got holes all over the place!)
(can't finish the story! don't want to finish the story! musn't finish the story!)

In short, within the emergent processes of natality at the University of Disaster there exists a thin membrane separating freedom from fascism — perhaps one as thin as a screen. What is at stake in this zone is the very form of life itself: a nexus of philosophy, pedagogy and praxis, or an image of thought. Gesture may offer the tectonic opportunities for movement within, around and behind this zone of surface intension, though to what affect? Is the resonance one of love and trust?

(i will not love that i hate you.)
(i will not hate that i love you.)

You can still love someone after the violence. But this is what gives fascism its most dangerous potential.

Spy, Transparency Threshold

So, in case I don't see you later: good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

Fade to extended black.

Awakening: overexposure and transparency

Wake up…!

WAKE UP!

Scene: Return to present. The Spy is in a small room, hooked up to a writing machine of some sort. A sound like the dusty muted crackle of silence between tracks on a old record player gradually grows in volume. There is a smell of garlic or cheap aftershave, definitely mixed with sweat. The screen splits horizontally out to reveal image from extended black, edges slightly blurred to simulate eyes opening.

His eyelids feel sticky as he tries to open them. Blood? Tears? The Spy looks around the room: interrogation room, debriefing room, examination room — funny how they all look the same when you're the one sitting in the chair. A light is on, blinding him. The outline of a crisp military man looms tall in front of him, while the soft glow of a cigarette punctuates the deep shadows to the right of his periphery. He feels drugged.

"Who are you?"

"Weisz," the man in front of him responds. "Errik Weisz. Officially, you could say I'm with the Agency. Unofficially, I like to consider myself the ghost that haunts a hundred servers and a thousand relational databases. Either way you look at it, I've been the one running you this whole time."

The Spy pauses, slightly unnerved.

"What do you mean, 'running me'? Who the hell is General Generator, then? Who have I been talking to for all these years?"

"Generator was just a shell. Fabricated for Project Wintermute. My identity needed to be kept secret at all times, as you can appreciate — as you must appreciate — for reasons both internal and external to this unit. Do you understand?"

The Spy quickly regains composure, steadies his voice. His eyes dart about the sterile box that forms this particular detention zone. He notices the cigarette ember leaning forward from the shadows ever so slightly, as if interested. Interested to hear the answer.

"And just who the fuck are you?"

The ember retreats just-perceptibly into the shadows.

"Smith," comes Weisz's curt response. "That's all you need to know."

The Spy pauses once again, this time the voice a little less steady. Uncertain. Hoping.

"And the Colonel?"

Weisz's pause is longer. Now his eyes begin to dart more quickly.

"She knew what she chose to know. She knew how she chose to know."

The two men make eye contact under the harsh glare of the debriefing room light. Both exhale deeply at the same instant, each venturing a tentative though palpable sense of relief. Smith blows a lazy ring of smoke from the corner.

"Why are you telling me this now?"

"Because it's time for you to come in. Time to turn the project over to someone else. No agent can stay out there forever. These days the spy game is just too…"

(…so that was going to be it, then…)

"…and it's time to forget Mr. Brown ever existed."

The bell speaks (the bell from the belfry)

I sound the alarm of a fire that propagates through you, your pages, your volumes and your shelves, your images, your ideas. O memory of Alexandria, of Sarajevo, of the emperor Chi Hoang Ti! But here an unstable substance caught fire spontaneously, without any external cause lighting a spark. No arsonist, no torch-bearer or flamethrower, no one to drop phosphorus or napalm. A burn appeared in your very writings and symbols, one whose blaze spread effortlessly through the words and the sentences, through the images, the maps, the equations, and the diagrams.

And sure enough through the grimoires of the designers of fire, of tow, of tar, of saltpeter, and of black powder, of the alchemists of combustion and consumption: their volumes, too, burn. (Jean-Luc Nancy)

But he cannot forget. His courage in the field does not extend to his entire life technique. Nor will it. Condensation forms on the designer sunglasses he wears out of the debriefing room on his way to the press conference. Tears of a cyborg body that mask the emotions he must always conceal, repress, make absent.

Skin Tectonics - Courtesy of Elaine Ho

"It's time for you to come in," Weisz repeats, laying a hand on his shoulder. "No agent can stay out there forever."

 

FIN
_____

(thank you, wolfgang schirmacher, for a once-in-a-lifetime performance.)

Toward a Kinoderm Aesthetics

Mapping emergent territories

When designing a videogame character using 3-D modeling and animation tools, one begins the process with two separate, though interrelated, requirements: a wireframe "skeleton" of the character's body and a two-dimensional texture map of the character's facial appearance. That is, the skin of the character, while imagined as a volumetric construct, is always already understood in its design as a flat surface, laid bare, before its eventual (re)constitution as an animate form.

Face Texture Map

Hence, we may literally describe a cartography of the dermis whose features may be higher or lower in resolution, perhaps more crisp in detail or slightly blurred depending on the distortions in the fold to the volumetric.

The great ephemeral skin

"Open the so-called body and spread out all its surfaces: not only the skin with each of its folds, wrinkles, scars, with its great velvety planes, and contiguous to that, the scalp and its mane of hair, the tender pubic fur, nipples, nails, hard transparent skin under the heel, the light frills of the eyelid, set with lashes — but open and spread, expose the labia majora, so also the labia minora with their blue network bathed in mucus, dilate the diaphragm of the anal sphincter, longitudinally cut and flatten out the black conduit of the rectum, then the colon, then the caecum, now a ribbon with its surface all striated and polluted with shit; as though your dress-maker's scissors were opening the leg of an old pair of trousers, go on, expose the small intestine's alleged interior, the jejunum, the ileum, the duodenum …"

Courtesy of Stelarc

stelarc
stretched skin
2009
4m X 3m image / 3 photo panels

"… or else, at the other end, undo the mouth at its corners, pull out the tongue at its most distant roots and split it, spread out the bats' wings of the palate and its damp basements, open the trachea and make it the skeleton of a boat under construction; armed with scalpels and tweezers, dismantle and lay out the bundles and bodies of the encephalon; and then the whole network of veins and arteries, intact, on an immense mattress, and then the lymphatic network, and the fine bony pieces of the wrist, the ankle, take them apart and put them end to end with all the layers of nerve tissue which surround the aqueous humours and the cavernous body of the penis, and extract the great muscles, the great dorsal nets, spread them out like smooth sleeping dolphins" (Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, p.1).

Kino-gait

One moves through public space. Perhaps it is an overexposed space, or a space of pronounced acceleration in flux. Perhaps one's head is bowed slightly — in an effort to avoid visually dominating the other(s), or in a desire to frustrate authentication protocols, or in a simple attempt toward modesty. But if we are to locate ourselves in regimes of positionality that stand outside of or distinct from duration, we still need to "see" in some way.

It is a touch-based affective co-emergence that allows us to "see" in the process of moving through public space proper, with all of the politics that implies. And kino-gait offers a potentiality by which one may prosthetically explore a filtered memory of that same movement, with the subject located in the negative space of the embodied camera's multiple gaze.

Toward a kinoderm aesthetics

On the surface, it appears that one ought to view the images produced during the kino-gait process by projecting them onto some three-dimensional screen, perhaps shaped like the body of the individual who originally wore the camera apparatus: an anthropometrically correct screen. After all, we are describing a volumetric body moving relationally with other bodies in the corridors and conduits of biological flow. Do we not need to respect this phenomenon of the body, its tangible fact as thing?

No. Once the body has been imaged — even in negative space — and abstracted from relation, the distinctions between three-dimensional and two-dimensional outputs as technologies of expression become less significant (although not entirely trivial): a media-specific analysis suggests that either may prove more beneficial than the other in any particular context. It is rather how these outputs as aesthetic forms are inscribed in networks of power — as, for example, what Benjamin describes with "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" — that is of greater importance. How does power compromise the image produced in the abstraction of relation? How is relation compromised in turn?

Some omniocular visioning systems, such as motion capture, rely on a nearly perfect convergence of all camera lenses. In others, such as with ProZone, there simply needs to be a measure of overlap in order for the cameras to effectively monitor and communicate the position of a tracking-object. The point is that in any system at least two cameras ought to see the same marker at any one moment in time.

Given the complex contours that identify each of our body-volumes, not to mention the unique signatures in gait each of us performs, any kinoderm array of cameras will for the most part be characterized by divergence. We are curvy bodies, after all. And this is what curves do when the gaze is directed the other way: they diverge.

But the point remains: in any omniocular visioning system at least two cameras ought to see the same marker at any one moment in time. Even given the divergent qualities of any kinoderm array, this need not imply a large number of cameras. In Kino-Gait Study No.3 (above), there was a significant degree of overlap-through-divergence with only five cameras on the arrayed body.

Left: \'Aperture,\' courtesy of Antony Gormley

left: antony gormley
aperture
2009-10

Can we reverse engineer and transduce techniques of videogame modeling and animation to lift the kino-gait skin from the inscription of emergence and lay it flat on the surface? Can we invent new techniques? Can we literally describe a dynamic cartography of the kinodermis — whose features may be higher or lower in resolution, perhaps more crisp in detail or slightly blurred depending on the distortions in the fold from the volumetric?

Can we stitch the various cameras together, in other words, to provide a coherent two-dimensional text for the reader — a cinematic version of the Stelarcian skin discarded above?

Such techniques will require advanced dialogues with gait analysis, motion capture biomechanics, mathematics, digital signal processing, sculpting, choreography, music and others in order to create a similarly functional two-dimensional map of the space that is being surveyed. But it will also require holes, glitches, backdoors, easter eggs, etc. — what we might refer to as pores in the skin. In short, deludology as an active strategy of design so that the mobile political subject always retains opportunities for movement.

The deludic eruptions of holey space are but one element of a skin tectonics that offer the transludic subject-in-relation a micropolitics of maneuver.

Pixel to Pellicule to Projection

For my own part, I will consider myself content with my work if, in attempting to locate the place and theme of testimony, I have erected some signposts allowing future cartographers of the new ethical territory to orient themselves.

— Giorgio Agamben


(part three of a three-part series: see also pixel and pixel to pellicule)

Pellicule

Given a spectacle as lavish and complex as the Opening Ceremonies of an Olympic Games, it can be difficult to justify the isolation of one particular component as being more worthy of attention than the rest. Indeed, in the case of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and its Opening Ceremonies the politics of identity also merit close consideration, particularly as they concern the representation of Canada's indigenous peoples, the varied Olympic sporting nationalisms, and the recently deceased Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

That said, however, this essay will isolate and question a different component of the integumentary function during the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies, namely the white ponchos worn by nearly every each spectator in attendance. Though Vancouver was plagued by mild temperatures and rain in the days preceding the Games, the ponchos on hand were not there to protect spectators from the elements — indeed, these were the first fully indoor Opening Ceremonies. Rather, they were used as the screen on which the purveyors of sporting spectacle projected various images to mark the Olympic Games' opening.

At the Vancouver Olympics we witnessed yet another flip in the topology of discipline, spectacle and control — that is to say, in the topology of contemporary politics. No longer the disciplinary grid of the pixelated card stunt, no longer the undulating wave derived from the grid's discrete sequential logic, subjectivity in the stadium seats has mutated once again. The projection of Olympism onto the screen of ponchos completely smoothed the striations of the enclosed stadium layout, creating from their disciplinary subjects the unity of a single skin.

Subjective skin

In Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, painted on the front altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, there is a detail of the fresco in which Saint Bartholomew holds a rough knife in his right hand and his own flayed skin in the left. Bartholomew's gesture is at once a turn toward the Lord and a recoil from His presence. And of particular interest to this essay, the skin he holds in his left hand is meant to be a portrait Michelangelo painted of himself.

Sistine Chapel (Detail)

michelangelo
the last judgment (detail)
1537-1541

Scholarship has varied about what Michelangelo intended by introducing his self-portrait into the skin of Saint Bartholomew. The violent flaying of the skin, both an act of homage to the Lord and a punishment for his refusal to endorse paganism. The knife wielded by Bartholomew himself. All variables that complexify the "intent" of the artist, one from so many centuries ago who represents a story that originates centuries earlier.

It matters little to our present discussion which interpretation of Michelangelo's intent is the "correct" one. Instead, we draw our attention to the fact that in the time passed since the mid-sixteenth century, the "knowledge" that Saint Bartholomew's skin bore a self-portrait of Michelangelo was known, "forgotten" for centuries, and then "rediscovered" by the Italian physician Francesco La Cava. We draw our attention to the fact that a primarily oral tradition (knowledge of Michelangelo's self-portrait) was rendered extinct — before its eventual rekindling by the physician's visual capacity. We draw our attention to the very fact that a collective audience could imagine the artist representing his subjectivity by inscribing or revisioning a skin that was already known as belonging to someone else.

It is the American art critic and historian Leo Steinberg who questions the lengthy interval between those eras that understood Saint Bartholomew's flayed skin as portraying Michelangelo himself. Why this temporal gap or disconnect? Why was it a physician, La Cava, who "rediscovered" the self-portrait? Was it simply, as Steinberg suggests, that as a physician he was immune to the discursive boundaries of art orthodoxy and thus more free to discover?

Or can we resist this simple negation and suggest that as a physician La Cava was likely already aware of the body's medicalization via technical imaging processes? Aware that it was the gestural moving body that was captured by the varied forms of kinematic visioning? Or that the cinema constituted a plastic art and science of the skin (pellicule) long before such techniques moved from the flat surface to the contoured body? That the "rediscovery" of Michelangelo's self-portrait entered art discourse in 1925, scant decades after the emergence of popular cinema in many areas of the world, is perhaps not surprising.

Surgery

It is said the mark of a good plastic surgeon is that one cannot view scar tissue artefacts from the incising, folding and stitching of a subject's skin, at least given the sufficient focal distance from which one is to make such a consideration. We can remark, then, on the skilled surgeons of spectacle who so neatly sewed together the ponchoed pellicules in the stands of Vancouver Olympic Stadium: when viewed from the perspective of the television camera, or indeed, from the other side of the stadium, the skin appeared whole and relatively unmarked — a touch weathered, perhaps, but certainly bearing little overt evidence of scarring to its surface.

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

We might suggest it is Pointillism updated for the current technological age: no longer the round dot of the point nor the square of the pixel, but the irregularly bounded figure that is the polygon, multiplied and (texture) mapped together to create the screen. It is the logic of volumetric striation and the sports videogame avatar: a large set of differential polygon shapes stitched together that reduce to the flat plane of television those elements we most consider gestural.

As the gestural is captured by the skin's surface orientation we shift our focus to that which has been projected onto the screen, namely, icons representing various Olympic sports and flags representing the competing nations. In other words, those fantasies of sporting inclusion and fraternal nationalism we collectively understand as "Olympian," discursively inscribed onto the screen as necessarily belonging to particular sports or to the nation-state form of political sovereignty.

We noted earlier that sport is one arena in which the supposed decline of the nation-state posited by Hardt and Negri's Empire thesis has not been confirmed. To the contrary, it is the vigor with which nation-versus-nation sporting competition continues to resonate that obscures those other actors in sport's imperial meshwork and their varied conjunctures with one another. Might we even suggest that sport offers the opportunity for the excesses of the imperial system — that is, for the nationalist tensions that arise as neoliberal capital flows smoothly across borders — to be safely dissipated via the differential flows of television signals and allow for the overall health of the machine-organism?

The hygienic theatre

It is Virilio who suggests that those who are absent from the stadium are always right. But Baudrillard goes further: as mentioned earlier, the lesson he draws from the Heysel disaster is that the spectators need to be purged from the stadium in favour of the strictly televisual. John Bale locates in this a fulfillment of his "surgical" model of the sportscape, a sterile space free of spectators and in which only the athletic operations themselves are conducted on the stadium floor. Indeed, given the raw ponchoed skins that have just so recently been stitched together for the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies, one would hope the hygienic standards of the stadium approach those of the surgical clinic.

To illustrate this hygienic quality we shall take a slight detour to explore the glow sticks that were also handed out to each spectator at the stadium. Given the high definition capability of television and the high resolution of the spectator screen, the glow sticks provided to each audience member should be understood as much smaller objects than the cards of the pixel stunt, and thus fulfilling a quite different function. While the cards of the pixelated stunt were engineered to communicate a particular signal, the glow sticks serve to reintroduce noise to the high definition display of digital signal, adding a lushness not unlike that which a musician might engineer into a contemporary digital recording with the artefacts of vinyl static.

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

This lushness is visible both by those present at the stadium and those watching at home, which is not to suggest that these become identical subject positions. The spectator at home exists as a function of the eye, which is to say as a function of both the camera eye and the television producer's eye. This functions as either a sort of real-time Cubism in which multiple simultaneous viewpoints are filtered to the singular perspective of the final work, or as a more scripted logistics of perception that features pre-calculated camera sightlines corresponding to the action below.

Recall that Benjamin likened the cameraman to the surgeon, who "greatly diminishes the distance between himself and the patient by penetrating into the patient’s body, and increases it but little by the caution with which his hand moves among the organs." The warm ambience of the glowstick noise obscures the hygienic sterility in which digital spectacle is produced for the spectator at home.

The zone

The spectator at the stadium, on the other hand, exists in a middle zone as both subject and object of this particular drama, the hygiene of digital also modulating this multiple relationality. Kittler's dramatic introduction to Gramophone, Film, Typewriter offers us a clue as to the particular reason why:

Before the end, something is coming to an end. The general digitization of channels and information erases the differences among individual media. Sound and image, voice and text are reduced to surface effects, known to consumers as interface. Sense and the senses turn into eyewash. Their media-produced glamor will survive for an interim as a by-product of strategic programs. Inside the computers themselves everything becomes a number: quantity without image, sound, or voice. And once optical fiber networks turn formerly distinct data flows into a standardized series of digitized numbers, any medium can be translated into any other. With numbers, everything goes. Modulation, transformation, synchronization; delay, storage, transposition; scrambling, scanning, mapping — a total media link on a digital base will erase the very concept of medium. Instead of wiring people and technologies, absolute knowledge will run as an endless loop (p.1).

During the Vancouver Opening Ceremonies, the loop of absolute knowledge in question ran between the space of the stadium and the space of the home, which begs a question. If synthetic means of perception today rely almost wholly on digital forms of recording, inscription, encoding, transmission and storage, then why does the bank of spectators, this screen onto which the Opening Ceremonies were projected, still need to be present? Why can't the images of the national flags and the sporting icons — and indeed, the spectators themselves — be superimposed on the television screen (as with a graphic overlay that displays statistics), or digitally integrated into the "real" of the stadium, (as with football's first down line)? If, as Baudrillard and Virilio suggest, it is those at home watching who are always right, why is it that the stadium spectators are still required?

One of the lessons we learned from the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and its Opening Ceremonies was precisely such an indistinction between actual and synthetic spaces, most notably manifest in the fireworks display that exploded both in gunpowdered form at Beijing National Stadium and as a digital simulation on telescreens worldwide. This optical doubling was meant to ensure that televisual perception remained pristine in the event that problems befell the live fireworks display — namely, low visibility due to purportedly poor air quality. Once again, those absent from the stadium appeared to be right.

It could be said that the stadium spectators are still required because the revenues they bring from ticket sales, concessions, and sponsor imprints are desirable to the profit-maximizing actors who constitute Sporting Empire. But these are risky revenues. Aggregating a live audience post-9/11 is risky, and thus costly: the Vancouver Organizing Committee spent $950 million on the varied security measures employed during the Games. That the risk is borne at all speaks to a shift from State sovereignty and its right to kill, which today becomes biopolitics and its "primary objective to transform the care of life and the biological as such into the concern of State power" (Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz, p.155). An expense of nearly a billion dollars to secure territory for a two-week sporting competition gives this biopolitical "care of life" a rapid quantitative grounding.

The care of biological life as a security matter is risky, yes, but from a different perspective so is the signal coming from the image-factory that is the sports stadium. The Opening Ceremonies of an Olympic Games, in particular, exist among the most elaborately constructed spectacles in human history, both at the stadium and on television. An entire choreography of perception to capture the dazzling displays in the building for television, admitting to its own presence as infrequently as possible. The actors on the floor are relatively scripted, but what about the spectator-subjects in the stands? How can we be certain they will not compromise the signal in any way? What if someone engineered the contagion of a Wave?

Are these revenues really worth the risk?

Given the scripted choreography of perception produced in Hollywood today, one presumes the CGI rendering capabilities are sophisticated enough to display either a screen of projected imagery or a crowd of stadium spectators. But Kittler's observation about the shift to digitality proves key. If we can question the simulation of fireworks, national flags, sports icons and spectators, certainly we can question the simulation of the event itself, erasing the very concept of the stadium? Is this not the lesson of sports videogames and their rapidly "improving" binary-coded artificial intelligence engines?

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

That the sporting event actually exists is the first layer in the carefully constructed apparatus of truth that is contemporary televised sport. This truth possesses a digital representation, inscription, transmission and storage, but what it wants is its legitimation, which it finds in the flesh relation of those analog bodies located at either end of the communication channel and its endless loop (cf. Massumi, "On the Superiority of the Analog"). It is the spectator at the stadium who provides this fleshy legitimation to the televiewer at home, a last gasp for real space to roar in a relation dominated by real time.

For one fails to understand the roar of the stadium crowd if one considers it simply an acoustic phenomenon. As Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht suggests, it is rather "a physical point of self-reference through which the crowd perceives and transforms itself into one unified body" (In Praise of Athletic Beauty, p.215). It is an expression of intensity made manifest, made corporeal: the linguistic signifiers of aural outpouring, yes, but also the gestural qualities of the roaring act and the flesh resonance with both the thousands of others in attendance and those who perform on the stadium floor.

In fact, there need not even exist a roaring crowd for there to be a comparable level of intensity perceived by those in attendance. A stillness — an anticipation of what is to come — may resonate with the flesh in a fashion quite as intense as the great roar. We might say there is a buzz in the air, the quiet hum of voices that gives the pregnant silence its lush quality. We might say one could cut the tension with a knife, perhaps the most damning indictment of the tangibility of flesh's non-tangibility, of the relational weaves that develop their tensility with each passing moment of anticipation, and of the latent urge to sever these fibres lest one be consumed by the intensity of their relation.

Perversion, inversion

In a perversion of Foucault's analysis of the panopticon, the disciplining of the spectator becomes that which contributes to the production of sporting spectacle itself. Anyone may step into the guard tower, yes, and observe those in the partitions of competition (given sufficient discretionary income, of course), thus participating in the exercise of disciplinary power. But the spectator also becomes among the observed when the vectors of archive and telesthesia are introduced to the production of spectacle: the "guards in the tower" are also seen by the television cameras, surveillance cameras, and cellphone cameras that proliferate in this ludic space. They, too, become Foucauldian "objects of information, never subjects in communication," at least insofar as we are describing communication in its traditional linguistic sense.

Given the always-on digitality of Kittler's new media order, the "guards" themselves become performers in the discursive production of the mediated event and confirm the affective response that the television audience at home is meant to embody. Guarding, as such, comes to mean communicating the very analog fact of having spectated the event, with communication understood as based in flesh resonance and its corresponding gesture.

No matter how sterile the space becomes, the stadium spectator will never be exiled from the surgical theatre in favour of the televiewers back home. So long as the optics of televised spectacle remain perspectival in nature, the vectors of telesthesia will never fully reproduce the volumetric of the stadium spectator. Even if they do somehow, if the optics become volumetric and the avatar can more closely approximate the gestural body of the spectator at home, it remains that the analog resonance of flesh will not have been duplicated. And so the spectator at the stadium becomes the uneasy compromise that sporting Empire must concede in order to give synthetic perception and its audience a grounding and legitimation in the resonance of flesh witnessing.

What is a stadium?

It was suggested earlier that in the stadium we find echoes of Agamben's inquiry into the camp as a form of life governing biopolitics everywhere. While we do not mean to draw an equivalence between the deportees of Auschwitz and high performance athletes, we should draw attention to those structuring principles found in the most extreme version of the camp and how they enter the ludic arena to govern the biopolitics of sport. The enclosure of the stadium, the serialization of spectators and inscription of athletes within, and the topological transformation of the space to police performance enhancing substances and methods all constitute a particular state of exception that we might describe under the broad emerging rubric of lex sportiva. We find additional evidence with the conversion of the stadium space from its role in the production of ludic capital to other purposes during times of warfare, emergency, contagion, or disaster.

Indeed, Agamben himself draws the link between the stadium and the camp-as-form on a few different occasions. In Means Without End: Notes on Politics, he writes:

If this is the case, if the essence of the camp consists in the materialization of the state of exception and in the consequent creation of a space for naked life as such, we will then have to admit to be facing a camp virtually every time that such a structure is created, regardless of the nature of the crimes committed in it and regardless of the denomination and specific topography it might have. The soccer stadium in Bari in which the Italian police temporarily herded Albanian illegal immigrants in 1991 before sending them back to their country, the cycle-racing track in which the Vichy authorities rounded up the Jews before handing them over to the Germans, the refugee camp near the Spanish border where Antonio Machado died in 1939, as well as the zones d'attente in French international airports in which foreigners requesting refugee status are detained will all have to be considered camps (p.42).

To these examples we might also include the Louisiana Superdome during Hurricane Katrina, the Itchioka PoW Camp during World War II, and the local baseball diamonds used as "designated protest zones" or "free speech areas" during political events, among hundreds of others. While these examples highlight the space itself as primary in structuring the biopolitical apparatus, Agamben elsewhere delves further into the relations that produce the subjectivities of the camp. In Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, he writes of the Sonderkommando, a unique group of deportees "responsible for managing the gas chambers and crematoria," and who also occasionally played in soccer matches with the Nazi SS:

[Primo] Levi recalls that a witness, Miklos Nyszli, one of the very few who survived the last "special team" of Auschwitz, recounted that during a "work" break he took part in a soccer match between the SS and representatives of the Sonderkommando. "Other men of the SS and the rest of the squad are present at the game; they take sides, bet, applaud, urge the players on as if, rather than at the gates of hell, the game were taking place on the village green."

This match might strike someone as a brief pause of humanity in the middle of an infinite horror. I, like the witnesses, instead view this match, this moment of normalcy, as the true horror of the camp. For we can perhaps think that the massacres are over — even if here and there they are repeated, not so far away from us. But that match is never over; it continues as if uninterrupted. It is the perfect and eternal cipher of the "gray zone," which knows no time and is in every place (p.25).

What is of note about this gray zone is the space for the third that opens up within the play at hand, the zone of indistinction between guard and deportee on the soccer pitch. If the economic might of the television audience at home serves as the truth of the event for Sporting Empire and its actors in the Opening Ceremonies, do the spectators at the stadium and their complex integration into the spectacle exist in a similar gray zone or third space?

The witness

How do we understand witnessing and flesh resonance in such a gray zone? As Agamben continues in Remnants of Auschwitz:

From this perspective, the meaning of "witness" also becomes transparent, and the three terms that, in Latin, express the idea of testimony all acquire their characteristic physiognomy. If testis designates the witness insofar as he intervenes as a third in a suit between two subjects, and if superstes indicates the one who has fully lived through an experience and can therefore relate it to others, auctor signifies the witness insofar as his testimony always presupposes something — a fact, a thing, a word — that preexists him and whose reality and force must be validated or certified. … Testimony is thus always an act of an "author": it always implies an essential duality in which an insufficiency or incapacity is completed or made valid (p.150).

If what is being presented as the Opening Ceremonies is but the authored spectacular event par excellence, then this last aspect of testimony posited by Agamben becomes problematic for Sporting Empire. Too many authors spoil the text, we might say, or at least challenge its architectural claims to truth and thus the message must be modulated rather than wikified. Intellectual property is at risk, after all. And thus we may better understand the images projected upon those in attendance at Vancouver's Olympic Stadium: the latest technique by which Sporting Empire attempts to neutralize the authorial aspect of witnessing. Skins flayed open, each surgically stitched to the next, the naked life onto which an Olympic self-portrait is inscribed; zoe and the replication of interlocking rings, gesture turned inward from the screen, analog presence and its incomplete translation to the digital.

While the camp endures as a form in which the very issue of humanity is continually at stake, and thus always stands separate from an analysis of sport and its ludic political economy, we may certainly recognize in the stadium, as Agamben himself does, the camp-as-form that differentially constitutes biopolitical spaces everywhere. And yet this "differential" constitution begs the question of specificity. In the particular case of the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies, an event purportedly marked by its diversity — the bright colours of the Parade of Nations, in particular — obscures its very basis in uniformity: what is the specific mechanism that has most of the audience wearing a white poncho to complement those team uniforms marching in down below?

Why are the stadium spectators complicit? Is the requirement to wear the poncho contractually obligated as part of one's ticketed passage into the Opening Ceremonies? Or what about a different scenario, with a poncho strategically available on each chair that was optional to wear upon entering the building? What if one attempted to refuse but then someone else a few seats over strongly suggested that one was in fact expected to wear the garment? Who, precisely, would be "expecting" the poncho to be worn? The event organizers? The panoptic gaze? Or one's fellow assembled spectators?

Courtesy of CTVOlympics

Does one stand defiant in the face of this challenge? Does one refuse the soft program of the mass and explicitly call into question the figure of the spectator-witness? As the animal body is emptied out into the in the networked space of spectacle, does one reduce one's degree of exposure to alterity in order to contain the potential of contagion? In this gray zone, the zone of naked life and spectacular television programming, the zone in which presence trumps absence, the zone in which for the time being real referents still remain, one can only hope that Baudrillard's strategem of hyperconformity was intended as a clever ruse.

Marginal Notes on Notes on Gesture

Motion capture. Captured motion.

It is no coincidence that in his essay "Notes on Gesture" Giorgio Agamben only provides the reader one concrete exemplar of what actually constitutes a gesture, and that is gait. Recall that Muybridge and Marey became godfathers of not only the art of cinema but also the science of biomechanics, the relation becoming more apparent over the course of the twentieth century insofar as both serve to capture motion. Or, more specifically, as they both serve to capture gesture: walking and gait have become as important to the processes of consumption as they have to those of production.

It is gait that provided the basis for some of Muybridge and Marey's early cinematic works, but is also the foundational human movement that has driven most innovations in biomechanical measurement during the past century, from stroboscopic photography to force plate analysis to high-speed videography. As Francesco Careri suggests, walking is the "first aesthetic act" of humans in that it assumes a "symbolic form" shaping our very being in the world and our relationships to landscape and architecture. Gait is integral to this symbolic form and thus integral to our built environment both real and virtual. While Careri argues convincingly that the built environment of humans emerges from nomadic walking peoples, eventually it comes to mark the character of the sedentary city in both material and immaterial fashion: the polis and the walking subject enter biunivocal relations of naming the other. Walking is not simply an aesthetic act, then, but a political one as well.

Courtesy of Gabriel Orozco

Gabriel Orozco
digitally-manipulated photographic print

And while Agamben devotes his attention to cinema for the remainder of the essay, perhaps we ought to follow the twin genealogies created by Muybridge and Marey to consider parallel developments in biomechanics as well. Extending an argument from Deleuze's book on cinema, Agamben suggests that "the element of cinema is gesture and not image." If Agamben and Deleuze are correct, then the reason gesture has been obscured in cinematic analysis appears to be simple, as it is literally a matter of appearances. Until recently, cinematic scenes were always shot from a single perspective at a time, from a single camera, and many of these single shots (perhaps from different cameras) were edited together to form a final filmic image — with the audience member, as Benjamin points out, assuming the position of the camera and the gaze of the director.

With this flattening of the perspectival gaze to the two-dimensional surface it appears that the image constitutes the foundational element of cinema, but this is due to the technical limitations of the input device rather than to any truth of the form itself — if we can consider "cinema" to be an assemblage of bodies and technologies that produces the final filmic image. Given such an input, one can never see all sides of a volume from a single point in Euclidean space — and gesture is volumetric.

What technical vision wants is to see the subject from all directions at once — in other words, to become omnidirectional or omnipresent (and here we can explain the "replacement" for an idea of God, in a technocratic sense of becoming-secular). Following Agamben and Deleuze, this is because technical vision wants to represent gesture rather than simple image.

The goal of omnidirectionality had been accomplished to some degree in biomechanics with motion capture technology, an apparatus that features multiple simultaneous camera angles synthesized together to identify the position of markers located on key anthropometric sites of the body. In doing so, it became possible to create volumetric models of gesture for the purposes of measurement, analysis and optimization.

But omnidirectionality has truly taken off with videogames, which took the practical fruits of biomechanic research and made them profitable for the industry of integrated spectacle. Financial gain may now accrue by capturing and expropriating the gestures of athletes and actors to create identity-constructs that are tried on like well-made Armani suits. While playing these games the user reduces one's own gestures to a programmed and nearly-pure electromagnetic impulse almost unrecognizable in comparison to those movements taking place on the screen.

Motion Capture Collage - Courtesy EA Sports

And since it is the integrated spectacle we are describing it is no surprise that innovations in the videogame medium were fedbackforward into cinema, as with the bullet time effects in The Matrix. It is perhaps most impressive, then, that Deleuze recognized cinema's gestural character without ever having seen Trinity levitate to raise holy hell on two units of simulated police.

Simulation, Replication, Improvisation

"Within the culture industry, even in its archaic incarnation examined by Benjamin and Adorno, one can grasp early signs of a mode of production which later, in the post-Ford era, becomes generalized and elevated to the rank of canon" (Virno, p. 58).

The era of technical reproduction did in fact become generalized to the rank of canon, but within this canonization lay the seeds of its own obsolescence. The speed of capital required increasingly faster means of technical reproducibility, which begat developments in systems theory, statistical modeling, information management, etc., yielding innovations such as just-in-time inventory and production. As the fluxes of manufactured desire and consumption concurrently accelerated via the increasingly networked electronic conduits of the late twentieth century, production encountered a limit-barrier as it was unable to produce faster than just-in-time while retaining maximum efficiency levels.

For gains to be made, capital needed to anticipate consumer demand as keenly as possible to curtail overproduction, which has subsequently become an increasingly central preoccupation of statistical mathematics and gives us the era of Baudrillardian simulation: the creation of a hyperreality in which every exchange, every corporate (and increasingly non-corporate) interaction is anticipated by a statistical model.

The speaker alone — unlike the pianist, the dancer or the actor — can do without a script or a score. The speaker's virtuosity is twofold: not only does it not produce an end product which is distinguishable from performance, but it does not even leave behind an end product which could be actualized by means of performance. In fact, the act of parole makes use only of the potentiality of language, or better yet, of the generic faculty of language: not of a pre-established text in detail. The virtuosity of the speaker is the prototype and apex of all other forms of virtuosity, precisely because it includes within itself the potential/act relationship, whereas ordinary or derivative virtuosity, instead, presupposes a determined act (as in Bach's "Goldberg" Variations, let us say), which can be relived over and over again (p. 56).

It is never quite clear to what degree Virno sees a departure from an earlier mode of production qualitatively and quantitatively rooted in seriality. Virno, whose life, theory and praxis are primarily embedded in the era of technical reproducibility, would have seen improvisation steadily devalued over the course of the twentieth century as the archive increasingly redefined boundaries of space and time for the recording and distribution of performance. But once technical reproduction reaches its logical conclusion and is succeeded by the age of digital simulation (following in the line of McLuhan, Baudrillard and others) and replication (following in the line of Dawkins, Virilio and others), each located within an overarching logic of recombination, improvisational forms of culture — understood in a formal, linguistic sense — see their value increase once again in a societal desire to retrieve the "real".

Given more exposure to improvisational culture Virno would certainly have realized that pianists, dancers and actors are equally as capable of improvisational performance as the speaker. And when one further considers the presentation of self in everyday life as always already a performance (often a speaking one), subconscious improvisational "acting" jobs for the multiple publics one faces, then the privilege Virno gives to the speaker over these other "derivative" virtuosos fully crumbles.

Simply put, the pianist, dancer, actor (and basketball player) also possess a virtuosity that "includes within itself the potential/act" relationship. If Virno is going to posit a multitude in which the poiesis of labour merges with the praxis of political action, all rooted within the virtuosity best exemplified by the speaker, then we must consider that contemporary cultural forms have revived the value of improvisation and that the utterance may emerge from the whole body rather than simply as breath expired artfully from the lungs.