Happy Mother's Day

Relationality

[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]

Multitude of Multitudes

If Hardt and Negri believe that the internet and immaterial production provide both affirmative and necessary opportunities for the constitution of the multitude in postmodern society, and if we further understand the internet as a "network of networks" linked by circuit and signal, sharing certain protocols but having unique configurations, then should we not also insist that the multitude is similarly a "multitude of multitudes"?

In this insistence of the materiality of the forms of communication and the respective interfaces that connect human bodies together, the sporting multitude emerges as one such potential multitude among others. The sporting multitude is unique in its constitution though networked with other multitudes, both formally, in terms of communication systems and politically, in the sense of a common struggle against the meshworks of Empire. Thus, while material and immaterial structures, leverage points, and conditions of possibility may be unique to a particular biotic component (cf. Haraway) of the broader multitude, there exists the strong potential for diffusion, drift or rhizomatic connection on the strategic plane between these networks, as well as the rational singular-plural interest to do so.

G+D: "This is how it should be done: Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of land at all times."

morning contemplation

"Circulating is the first ethical act of a counterimperial ontology." — Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
morning contemplation

???? jingshan park,
beijing, china
august 2008

Diagonals, Pulses, Politics

In a discussion last year with Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu and Anne Querrien titled "What makes a biopolitical space?", Antonio Negri tackles the question of urban space as a potential site for opposition and resistance. Key to his analysis is the city as the site of intersection between the "political diagonal" and the "biopolitical diagram":

The biopolitical diagram is the space in which the reproduction of organised life (social, political) in all its dimensions is controlled, captured, and exploited – this has to do with the circulation of money, police presence, the normalisation of life forms, the exploitation of productivity, repression, the reining in of subjectivities. In the face of this, there is what I call a "political diagonal", in other words the relation that one has with these power relations, and which one cannot but have. The problem is to know what side you are on: on the side of the power of life that resists, or on the side of its biopolitical exploitation. What is at stake in the city often takes shape in the struggle to re-appropriate a set of services essential to living: housing; water, gas and electricity supply; telephone services; access to knowledge and so on (emphasis added).

Though his understanding of political action as always being intimately interwoven with the space of biopolitical production is important, Negri's problematic choice of metaphor gives the analysis as a whole the appearance of being overly reductionist and binary. Purportedly contra the biopolitical space of lines and vectors and the subjectivities produced therein, Negri's concept of the "political diagonal" is essentially just another line or vector, bisecting or cutting in two ("know what side you are on"). Though the political diagonal works counter to the grid of biopolitical production or the biopolitical diagram, it certainly seems to do so within the same geometry and logic.

Resistance is more nuanced, supple and contingent than that. And thus in contrast to Negri I think we need to consider the political as rhythmical, as pulsing+expanding-contracting, as beating like a heart. This focus on the pulse or rhythm would more fully appreciate the potential for minor practices at the level of the microsocial, which is the preferred approach of Negri's interviewers. Further, if we are to think of political action in terms of pulses or rhythms our analysis then demands an even more granular approach, moving not only from the level of the social to the microsocial but to the level of the individual body itself.

The biorhythms of the individual body are continually played out against the collective rhythms of the microsocial or social, as well as against other rhythms produced by the biopolitical diagram such as work and leisure in their institutionalized forms. The alignments between these rhythms are not reducible to binary outcomes of either/or, but rather result in varying degrees of harmony that may or may not lead to political actions, though if so, are realized along a full spectrum of intensity.

All of which is why sport, above other forms of physical culture, may be so crucial to this particular understanding of politics: precisely because the individual body (eg. athlete), the microsocial (eg. team) and the social (eg. fans at stadium) — read in terms of sporting pulses or rhythms — lie at the intersection of work and leisure, of discipline and creativity, of body as robotic labourer and body as playful hacker, all increasingly within a contested urban milieu. Hence, if we consider sport as the site of a politics located at the borderspace between the work-model and the leisure-model by exploring the rhythms and frequencies of the body, the microsocial and the social, then perhaps we have a lens through which we can see the political anew in cognate areas outside of sport.

The Peace Relay: A Proposal

The Olympic torch relay was begun at the 1936 Olympic Games as a means for the Nazi party to showcase the strength of the German fatherland and gain support for the regime. Since that time it has been, like the Olympics themselves, a more or less political exercise thinly disguised as an act of international solidarity. This politicization was taken to new levels this year as the Beijing Olympic Committee staged their torch relay on an unprecedented scale, traversing 137,000 km and six continents over 129 days and adding to the sponsorship of the relay itself by Coca-Cola a sponsorship of the torch proper by Chinese computer corporation Lenovo.

As Virilio notes: "[S]overeignty no longer resides in the territory itself, but in the control of the territory" (Life in the Wires: The CTheory Reader, p. 132). And furthermore: "Whoever controls the territory possesses it. Possession of a territory is not primarily about laws and contracts, but first and foremost is a matter of movement and circulation" (p. 128). Hence, when the torch passes through Tibet (Autonomous Region) on its way to the summit of Mount Everest, we are witnessing a unique moment of neocolonialism in the name of nation-state (China), transnational corporation (Lenovo) and supranational organization (IOC) — in other words, in the name of sporting Empire.

With this in mind, I would like to introduce a proposal for a different type of relay, free from the overt politics of Empire (though not free of politics), which I will refer to as the Peace Relay.

Concept

A certain number of relay batons (let's say 2,010 to stand against the upcoming 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver) are given to selected runners to begin a road race. These are not ordinary batons, however, nor is this a traditional road race.

Traditional Road Race FormatFig.1. Linear vectors of force in a traditional road race format.

In a traditional road race, there is a start, finish, and a fairly linear trajectory that connects the two and channels vectors of force in a forward direction — it is a relatively striated space of sporting activity (see Fig.1). The starting gun begins competitive activity at a specific point, which then finds its terminus at some point in the future (this may in fact be a loop coming back around to the starting point). As described previously on sportsBabel, this structure spatially distinguishes between participants and spectators, which encloses the space and further feeds the former forward towards the goal orientation of reaching the finish line.

The Peace Relay takes this sporting structure as its conceptual foundation and subverts it in several ways. First, the relay has no finish line, which removes the goal orientation in traditional races described earlier. Because there is no finish line and no goal orientation, the requirement for a linear, mono-directional vector of force is eliminated as well. Where does one run when there is no finish line? Anywhere.

Contagion model of peace relayFig.2. Nonlinear vectors of contagion in the peace relay format.

So we have 2,010 runners, each with a baton and the freedom to move in any direction, which forms the basis of the Peace Relay as a potential for meme contagion. The batons are not simple track and field batons, but rather specially designed symbols to represent peace through athletics. When the run begins, each runner scatters in different directions with their own baton (see Fig.2). Each person might hang on to their own baton for a few days, displacing it from the location where it was initially received, but the understanding is that eventually every runner will pass their baton on to another runner. This person will be told how the relay works, be offered the choice of participation, and then will recite some version of the following before receiving the baton:

"I pledge to move the goal of peace forward in the world."

The sound of the starting gun symbolizes the violence that exists in the world, but also signifies the beginning of the Peace Relay and its embodied efforts to spread an idea. The absence of a finish line suggests that peace is ever elusive, endlessly deferred, continuously struggled towards. The baton is the vector of contagion that spreads the idea of peace from one runner to the next. And the open race course ruptures the barriers that keep us separated from one another, allowing the contagion to flow out into open smooth space. "Circulating is the first ethical act of a counterimperial ontology" (Hardt and Negri).

(Thanks are due to Elaine Ho, Barb Fornssler and Tom Kalin for their invaluable feedback.)

Introduction to Rhythmanalysis

The following constitutes the conclusion of a paper I just presented in Copenhagen:

A central concern in Bale's analysis of high performance running is the space-time compression that occurs as technologized runners traverse standard spatial distances in ever-shorter temporal quantities. But we must draw a distinction between the imperatives of capital and those of the State (Deleuze & Guattari, ATP; Hardt & Negri, Empire). A world-class running athletes embodies a massive fixed capital investment that seeks maximal speed and the potential financial reward that entails, while the State seeks to maintain a perceived level of ethical integrity for its own spectacular purposes.

Bale's analysis refers to the acceleration of capital in its various forms and one of the ways in which the State seeks to control these bodies is by introducing a space-time dilation to offset the compression. The fully automated photo finish system essentially expands the final tenths of a second at the conclusion of a race so that the administrators may optically adjudicate the speeding bodies and determine a race victor. Similarly, where the wide space of the marathon creates permeability in the tight disciplinary enclosure normally understood with achievement sport, the State attempts to fortify the barriers between spectator and participant by using radio frequency transponder chips to compress the marathon sportscape.

Thus, the State, in the form of the International Association of Athletics Federations, is presented here as establishing countervailing impulses or rhythms of spatiotemporal compression or dilation in a controlling response to the unchecked immanence of high performance running bodies. Based in the tactile nature of networked electronic technologies this control may be described as panhaptic, which suggests that new tools are required to think beyond optical surveillance and conceptualize resistance to structures of authority, both within sporting cultures and in broader society.

*     *     *

And I'd like to juxtapose this with a passage from Henri Lefebvre's Introduction to Rhythmanalysis (p.15, emphasis in original):

Everywhere where there is interaction between a place, a time, and an expenditure of energy, there is rhythm. Therefore:

a) repetition (of movements, gestures, action, situations, differences);

b) interferences of linear processes and cyclical processes;

c) birth, growth, peak, then decline and end.