Happy Mother's Day


[03/05/2009 1:58:39 PM]

sportsbabel says: please say thanks to your mom……!
sportsbabel says: you are our relation……
sportsbabel says: (smiley)

[03/05/2009 1:58:55 PM]

Perception and the State

NASSS 2008: Hybrid Bodies and Social Change in Popular Culture

"One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns, or to utilize smooth spaces as a means of communication in the service of striated space. It is a vital concern of every State not only to vanquish nomadism but to control migrations and, more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire "exterior," over all of the flows traversing the ecumenon. If it can help it, the State does not dissociate itself from a process of capture of flows of all kinds, populations, commodities or commerce, money or capital, etc. There is still a need for fixed paths in well-defined directions, which restrict speed, regulate circulation, relativize movement, and measure in detail the relative movements of subjects and objects." — Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.385

urban gait surfing

a body-subject.
a subway station, shopping mall, stadium concourse.
crowd surfing through public space, vertically rather than horizontally as at a rock concert.

a memetic splice of parkour that constitutes a "performative critique" (cf. borden) of the moving bodies along an urban conduit.

Gait Surfing

the foldings of kinesis within a particular taxis.

finding smooth space within gait surveillance and the fluxes of the striated.
finding a shifting temporality of the several within a flow of multiplicity (cf. ettinger).

deleuze and guattari weren't totally correct: it is not necessarily about entering into an existing energetic system in and of itself, as much as it is riding the turbulent, frothy edge between signal and becoming-noise. in the case of gait surfing, there is an entering into the energetic system of the flow of pedestrian traffic, but this traffic is itself produced by the muscular energies of the individual body. we are still exerting a force within the striations of the urban environment: that is, the biomechanical leveraging of the musculoskeletal system towards a particular linear vector of production. but when examined intensively, this linear flow-in-theory has different internal paces, rhythms, deviations from normal gaits, errors, noise, speeds, purposes and objectives, cultural histories — and indeed, an entire erotics in its relationality to the unfoldings of the several.

it is these anomalies that constitute the minor perturbations in a flow that may thereafter become chaotic attractors and create turbulence (cf. delanda). we find in the aggregate from these perturbations in bodily locomotive style the corporeal jetwash or break point between signal and becoming-noise of the urban gait surfer.

mixtape of instrumental music. shared playlist, personal music player. match the music to the motion. an aesthetic headphone science. a psychogeographical hybrid of surfing logic and audio walking tour.

haptic as intersection between vision, touch and proprioception.
haptic as intersection of vibrations between audio and body.

as an urban pedagogy of the body we "consciously" become aware of our virtuality and virtuosity as practice and praxis: reflexively before and after, and affectively while surfing the wave.

The Tactile Burden of Severality

Tactile burden of severality. A suggestive phrase, perhaps already located a little too gratuitously in the various crevices that constitute my verbal and written discourse. But isn't this how new concepts find their potential? Something felt is given a tentative genesis in thought and language; this voice swirls around in the mouth like a vintage syrah, opening up new sensations with each passing, and slowly emerges into form. With that in mind, consider the following as preliminary tasting notes for an emerging concept.

The motif of tactile burden may be traced back to the earliest voices posted at sportsBabel. I was concerned from the very beginning about the question of virtual (read: synthetic) sport and how that impacted the embodied aspect of performance. Certainly the best haptic technologies would never be able to replace the proprioceptions and external sensations of moving in concert with other bodies in sporting competition?

Over time I began to develop a more general understanding of the numbing that occurs with electric media technologies and their interfaces, from which the political dimension of such mediation became apparent. In contrast to the remote optics of surveillance, a close sensuous form of haptic control was being employed by the State that challenged prior understandings of bounded spatiotemporality — what Deleuze referred to as the "crisis of enclosure."

It seemed imperative to me that thinking political subjects needed to regain a sense of their own embodiment if they were to engage and resist the networked touching and imaging of their bodies by meshworks of government and corporate interest that occurs every day. Wholly yielding ourselves to the data networks was something that needed to be resisted, and thus my call to embrace a tactile burden.

So what is it that I mean by severality, on the other hand? Here, I am borrowing from the feminist psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger, who develops within her theory the idea of subjectivity as encounter between two or more individual subjects. These part-subjects affectively and mentally trans-inscribe and cross-inscribe one another to create the conditions of co-emergence within difference. We are part-subjects in several of these severalities, some of which mirror the old institutions of modernity — school, work, family — but many of which are either or both more granular in scale and more spatially diffuse. The crisis of enclosure begins with this fragmentation of the subject.

Interestingly, and departing somewhat from the influence of Deleuze and Guattari, Ettinger insists on the uniqueness of the few and focuses on severality rather than multiplicity. How do we differentiate between the two? It would appear to be simply a semantic distinction in terms of number (at what point does severality become multiplicity?), but it is more than that. Ettinger forces us to acknowledge at the level of lived, embodied, affective experience the many intimate foldings of severalness within a multiplicity. This is not to say that copoiesis with other partial-subjects never met before in the flesh cannot occur via networked forms of communication — after all, text (and increasingly audio, video and haptic technologies) may provide vectors of resonance between erstwhile strangers — but that such a resonance can only be the byproduct of a feedbackforward emanating from the prior lived everyday.

Virno, Hardt and Negri recognize the dimension of hybridity within their respective formulations of the multitude and they take great care not to dissolve and homogenize it, but they perhaps fail to resolve the particulars of affective experience and the myriad foldings of the few that exist in the passages between the real and virtual, between embodied and network-mediated. Ettinger, put simply, retrieves from the multitude the scale of the possible.

So, returning to the original question, what exactly am I saying when I refer to the tactile burden of severality? I'd like to leave that answer open-ended for now, but instead suggest an embodied experience that might offer a clue.

Sensing Several

This is a simple exercise that I did in Sandy Stone's class last year at the European Graduate School, which is apparently common among physical educators, but was new to me and I think quite powerful in its simplicity. Sandy is singular among EGS faculty in that she teaches in both the Media and Communications and the Expressive Arts divisions of the university; given her own history of embodied politics as a post-op transsexual, feminist scholar, and erstwhile performance artist, she brings unique insights about the body to the philosophy of technology.

The exercise: take a group of people within a broad open space such as a gym, dance studio or large classroom. Each person must choose one other person in the room (without notifying that person) and watch them out of the corner of their left eye. Everyone begins moving around the room, continually modifying position so as to keep that person in the corner of their left eye. Then, stop the exercise, choose a different person, and this time follow them out of the corner of the right eye.

The third iteration combines the first two: set everyone into motion while maintaining sight of the first person out of the corner of the left eye and the second out of the right eye. The resultant action will look something like this:

Sandy Stone Experiential Exercise

red arrow indicates viewing from left eye
blue arrow indicates viewing from right eye

I draw three main conclusions from this exercise:

1. Bodies must move rhythmically within the space by continually renegotiating the triangulation between the observer and the two observed (signals), as well as the other bodies in the room (noise).

2. This occurs not by optically focusing on either of the other individuals within the triangle, but rather by perceiving both through peripheral vision in a haptic sense. I understand this as correlative with the tactile burden.

3. Although each observer's severality only numbers three, the exercise demonstrates what Massumi refers to as every body's "immediate, unfolding relation to its own nonpresent potential to vary," albeit in a mutually interconnected fashion that encompasses the few as well as the entire group. This is what I understand as the foldings of severality within multiplicity.

Volumetric Striation and the Tactile Burden of Severality

Saas-Fee Slide - Courtesy D ROX Productions

(abstract submitted to a themed session entitled "hybrid bodies and social change in popular culture" to be held at the 2008 north american society for sport sociology conference)

In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari suggest that the philosopher might borrow from the percepts and affects created by the artist as a means for the positive creation of new concepts in thought. Towards such an end, this paper retrospectively traces the work of the British sculptor Antony Gormley to examine the emergence of a human body that has become dematerialized into myriad forms and explores the multiple subjectivities such a physical fragmentation of the body implies. In turn, we examine both the political response of the State as its control of such bodies moves beyond the striated spaces of enclosure to fluid, smooth space, as well as the mechanisms of mediation in sport that contribute to this control, both technically and discursively. Finally, Gormley's most recent work suggests an embodied tactility and severality as a means of resistance for the subject that stands counter to this new striation of the body. With theoretical contributions from Deleuze and Guattari, Virilio, Massumi and Ettinger, we situate and conceptualize both the new striation of the body-object in smooth space (a volumetric striation) and the potential nomadic response of severality as a complex interplay of moving bodies, flexible subjectivities and haptic perception.

Goal Orientation

Eduardo Galeano once wrote that the goal is the orgasm of soccer. If this is the case, then it becomes much easier to locate and understand the role of basketball in late capitalist cultures: too many produced orgasms, not enough seduction.

Most goals in basketball, despite the scripted or unscripted (coded or uncoded) nature of the bodies that move in communion, necessarily derive in the end from a solitary effort. This is not an indictment, but rather an affirmation of a tiny linear chain of causality enmeshed within the sweaty conditions of emergence.

But there is one type of goal unique to basketball that would not properly be considered a solo effort: the alley-oop.

Player with the ball senses an opportunity developing within the sweaty conditions of emergence, perhaps makes eye contact with the receiver (or not), fakes the defender and lobs the ball crisply yet gently towards the rim. Goal (orgasm).
Player without the ball senses his defender's body weight shifting away from the basket, perhaps makes eye contact with the passer (or not), feints and back-cuts to leap high in the air and jam the ball through the rim. Goal (orgasm).

Feminine to masculine? No. Rather, co-poiesis between bodies. A matrixial encounter of mutually produced subjectivity. The several-as-one during the revealing of this goal (orgasm), which does not emerge due to lack but to the desire for shared affect in a vibrating string of sweaty emergence.

Several such severalities immediately spring to mind when thinking of the NBA: nashstoudemire, paulchandler, kiddmartin, kiddjefferson, kiddcarter (kidd: that lover of several). But one of the most famous alley-oops in basketball history comes from the college ranks, when Bobby Hurley connected with Grant Hill in the 1991 NCAA championship game. This became one of the signature vectors of sign-value for the annual March Madness basketball tournament, yet it would hardly qualify as pure in its execution: the pass was thrown high and to the right but body adjustments were made in response and the goal was consummated.

What initiates the encounter: the pass thrown or the back cut? Or is it a mutual obligation?

For the co-poiesis to begin, both players must sense and emote (or better, vibrate). Thereafter, a goal is reached, yes, but to consider it in terms of the binary (scored or not) is misleading, for in its co-poiesis the alley-oop is an act of communication between bodies that eliminates language. As seen in the hurleyhill example above, it does not eliminate error or noise — there may be mis-starts and correctives as both bodies bear wit(h)ness. ("There is always surprise in the system of affect.") If both bodies (part-subjects) give themselves over fully to the event, the alley-oop surpasses any codes proscribed on either body in a melding (or metramorphosis) of several-as-one.

Ultimately, the alley-oop still constitutes a goal, but it is a more-than-goal: it speaks that which cannot be spoken, communicating desire, mystery, (com)passion, tenderness, and love. In its concreteness, it expresses an abstract that remains ever so elusive today.