the weight of my words

sportsbabel, 2001-2009

there are very many ways
i would like to break the spell
you've cast upon me

because all the time
i sacrificed myself
to make you want me
has made you haunt me

* * *

sportsbabel, 2001-2009
a remix begins


In America, Jean Baudrillard suggested that the mirror phase had "given way" to the video phase and the contemporary era of the screen image. But have we not changed again, reverted back to the mirror or at least mutated into a new hybrid of mirror and video?

There is a model for what we are attempting to describe here: the two-way mirror so adored by psychology practice. As children we play in these special rooms while the medical gaze and its recording devices sit quietly behind the silvered glass. Eventually, we learn of the duplicity, not unlike those moments in which we discover the fictions that are Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Michael Jackson's whiteness. Whenever in the same situation again, we are subconsciously aware of the mirror and wonder what lurks on the other side.

The regime of the screen intensifies, both in quantity and quality. The sheer number of screens increases beyond even that which Baudrillard could imagine. There is a viral proliferation of the screenal, vectoring beyond home (television) and work (computer) to infect every public space (monitor, jumbotron, electronic billboard, arcade game, etc.), and even the very flows of human movement themselves (laptop, PDA, cellphone).

But the nature of the input interface has changed as well, "democratized," a contagion of interactivity to match the proliferation of the screenal. Now we are all "creators," all able to see ourselves extended into the data networks of the ludic-virtual. In other words, all complicit in the creation of a new mirror — a slightly kaleidoscopic mirror, mind you — but one that captivates us like Narcissus long beyond that mirror phase of childhood.

Like the two-way sort used in psychology, however, this new era of the interactive is at once mirror and screen, at once opportunity for enclosed self-contemplation and open performance. For we all know what lurks behind the silvering of this new mirror and that is the gaze: sometimes manifest as benevolent glance and sometimes as cold, clinical, unblinking stare. Always performance.

Narcissus never suspected that Echo was swimming below the surface of the pool, but we know better.

* * *

There is a certain congruency here with videogames that allow one to toggle between first- and third-person perspectives. Vilém Flusser discusses the difference between line and surface and its implications for perception and thought, but, writing before the videogame revolution, neglects to consider the volumetric. All three appear in the planar form, but since Flusser distinguishes between line and surface, or text and image, it seems important to understand that the videogame is also of an altogether different character, for one actually enters its non-space to control the avatar during one's play.

This is not the same as a three-dimensional setting being reduced to the two-dimensional planar surface through perspectival optics, as with photography, film or television. In that case, one's vision identifies strictly with the point-of-view of the camera and one must imagine the depth of field that is represented on the surface. With the contemporary videogame, on the other hand, there is literally a three-dimensional non-space that has been mathematically modeled "behind" the screen. While the screen thus appears as a site of reduction, this is not due to the nature of cognitive engagement with this non-space, for we are continually monitoring multiple points-of-view as our bodily expertise increases in these ludic environments.

Admittedly, an entire history of static versus scrolling versus spatial gameplay environments needs to be told here, but suffice it to say that the emergence of the ludic subject from the primordial digital ooze of the surface to become volume is the most significant challenge to perception and thought since the invention of photography.

The split of the two-way silvering between mirror and screen is perhaps one way to understand this challenge to perception and thought, manifest in the ludic environment as the ability to instantaneously switch between the subject and object, between the I/je/? and the one/on/??? pronoun positions.

What of the you/tu/??

This was the opening in which wii would like to play // we don't have tickets found its niche. In "sprinting" the videogame 100-metre dash against a local, embodied competitor there was an explicit engagement with the you/tu/? at the nexus of I/je/? and one/on/??? positions. No, people didn't actually run, but yes, they did flail their arms, breathe heavy, and perhaps even shed a bead of sweat. No, people didn't face each other, but yes, through a Japanese interface both Chinese and English engaged amicably, not in translation but rather as a mediation.

And yes, in the process a temporary we/nous/?? was established: a micropolitics of the social body that first began with a politics of the moving and sensing animal body.

(a work-in-process between elaine w. ho and sean smith towards "17 days in beijing: screen of consciousness on the micropolitical," a text for public issue 40)

time, biorhythms, socius

Timetable - HomeShop

Starting with a grid and a timeline, a certain series of Events align themselves on a planar network. These Events have been a topic of discussion for quite some time now, and in the downward ticking of imminent certainty, it becomes calm again; preparatory activities come to a close, exteriors are hastily shined and construction sites moved to interiors, or we ourselves have left the premises, fearing the heated Spectacle to come. Yet despite the structure of the grid and the timetable and the past years of meticulous planning (they have replaced and re-installed new litter bins on our street twice since the winter), there is still something a little more than abstract about these Eights, and that little something rests, for most of us, on the issue of accessibility. Are you going to the Olympics? And to turn the question around, whether or not we are granted access, what has the imposition of the Games taken from us?

(from the call for participation text, homeshop series number one: games 2008)

* * *

The earliest call for participation and proposal text for the HomeShop project made explicit through word and image the desire to juxtapose the formal timetables of the Olympic Games with the more rhythmic sense of time and indeterminacy found in Xiaojingchang Hutong, and in that modest attempt lies quite a significant interrogation of power.

It is one thing to suggest that television has substantial implications for the collective biopower of the athletes, but quite another when one considers the sheer number of broadcasters involved in the worldwide transmission of the Olympic Games and how this magnifies the problem. NBC, the American host broadcaster, paid such an exorbitant sum for the domestic rights to show the Games that it had the bargaining power to demand certain events in Beijing conform to broadcast timetables in the United States. Swimming was of such importance to the American viewing public — particularly since Michael Phelps would be questing for eight gold medals — that NBC demanded the swimming finals be held first thing in the morning Beijing time so that they would be available live to a U.S. prime-time audience. This has substantial implications for the biorhythms of elite swimmers, who normally swim final events in the evening.

It is AC Nielsen, whose screenal day runs from 06:00 to 29:59 EST, that controls the regime of contemporary sporting biopolitics!

No lap around the sun, this, but rather a crepuscular dawn.

On the other hand, we have the very local rhythms of Xiaojingchang Hutong. Not only was the timetable of HomeShop very loosely arranged and articulated, with Beijing-based artists and local community residents arriving for formal events or dropping by to informally chat, but the biorhythms of the interpersonal were also more presently at the fore. This may have been manifest in any number of ways: through the weather, the heat, the sharing of water or suan mei tang (traditional Chinese plum juice); through the lighting of cigarettes for another or the musical stylings of DJ Mellow Yellow; through the staccato hesitations of translation between Chinese and English or the frustrated haltings in absence of such translation.

All part of a flow — not the regulated flow of the Olympic timetable and its conduits of tourist passage, public transit and commercial exchange, but the micro-flow of the neighbourhood, those swirling eddies in the liminal space where public and private bleed into one another, and whose non-linear dynamics create the potential for threshold events to occur (cf. DeLanda).

I mention this because the indeterminacies fostered by HomeShop and its local sense of time created quite a wonderful outcome as it related to the Loser's Party and the wii would like to play // we don't have tickets event. Quite unintentionally, we competed with the wii videogame version of the 100-metre dash to see who could be the most average competitor at the very same time that Usain Bolt ran the fastest 100-metre sprint in human history. This would be sacrilege to the political economy of speed, if only we didn't know it would happen again in four years' time!

And here, the local "timetable" created the athletic biorhythms from which a socius emerged.

(a work-in-process between elaine w. ho and sean smith towards "17 days in beijing: screen of consciousness on the micropolitical," a text for public issue 40)

Screen: Content to Context

Yes, the Opening Ceremonies were perhaps one of the most elaborately crafted exercises in narrative and mass consumption ever constructed, a logistics of perception meticulously designed to captivate each member of the worldwide audience: the Four Great Inventions and Parade of Nations as tele-colonial act. But this does not, nor cannot, tell the whole story.

Generally speaking, one's options within Beijing on 08.08.08 were to either watch on television in the privacy of one's own home alone or with a handful of family and friends; watch at one of the state-controlled, corporate-sponsored public viewing areas; or not watch at all. The outdoor quasi-public viewing area in the hutong with HomeShop provided an alternative to these options. One could say that it was simply a scaled-down version of one of the public viewing areas scattered around the city, but this misses the subtle nuances of difference.

Courtesy of Jeroen deKloet + HomeShop

Once the neighbours realized what was unfolding, it seemed to me that the opening ceremonies at HomeShop became a very collaborative DIY event. So many people wanted to contribute, whether it was in buying beer for the party, sharing marinated peanuts brought from home, serving watermelon and tidying up afterwards, or performing a very local history of the hutong (the fool!). And I would argue that the subsequent events hosted by HomeShop during its 17 days wouldn't have had the same traction with the neighbours — either in explicit participation or as a tacit acceptance of outsiders occupying local space — were it not for that initial encounter with an optics of familiarity (television) coupled with a haptic and supple molecular form that was not too small (isolated in living room) nor too large (the mass of the public viewing area).

(Certainly the dynamism of the Loser's Party and the wii would like to play // we don't have tickets event would have been drastically different in that case.)

At the same time the scale of the HomeShop public viewing cannot be disconnected from the fact that this was one of the most-watched television broadcasts in human history and hence the desire to be in the hutong to begin with. So while it is evident that the intimate nature of HomeShop's public viewing served as a catalyst for what might be described as a temporary autonomous zone, there is a need to interrogate this micropolitical space on a sliding spatiotemporal scale from global to local — not smaller or larger, but both/and — or at least read it stereoscopically as an experience of here and now.

(a work-in-process between elaine w. ho and sean smith towards "17 days in beijing: screen of consciousness on the micropolitical," a text for public issue 40)

Untitled (Vitruvian Gait Surfing)

(proposal for video installation: a co-emergent project of the department of biological flow)

[18/04/2009 7:15:57 PM] sportsbabel says: decouple camera from eye +
[18/04/2009 7:16:02 PM] sportsbabel says: gait surfing +
[18/04/2009 7:16:10 PM] sportsbabel says: vitruvian man +
[18/04/2009 7:16:16 PM] sportsbabel says: cubo-futurism +
[18/04/2009 7:16:29 PM] sportsbabel says: matrixial borderspace =

* * *

Vitruvian Gait Surf

* * *

paul virilio, la rochelle lectures, april 2009: "duchamp's nude descending a staircase is not a body, but the trajectory of a decomposition of a body descending a staircase, that is, parts of a body in acceleration."

* * *

camera+tripod: static
camera+dolly: equals camera+vehicle (see virilio's art of the motor)
camera+human.pov: identification with the moving human subject; a particular cinematographic technique that gives the recumbent body of audience member a sense of the uncanny at being jolted into jerky motion relative to the smoothness of the other two forms of perception; but this is still an association and identification with the eye

* * *

biomechanics (muybridge, marey, etc.) function by photographing the joints/body parts in motion

* * *

sylvère lotringer: "the cinema is war pursued by other means."

paul virilio: "it's not by chance that the movie camera was preceded by marey's chrono-photographic rifle and the gatling gun, which was itself inspired by the colt revolver" (Pure War, p. 84).

* * *

can we not have these joints/body parts in motion see?

* * *

"we are left with a conundrum: how to communicate the existence of embodied surfing potential in its myriad forms and work towards realizing such a new perhaps-radical politics without documenting the performance and contributing to a regressive politics of representation, fear and desire? this conundrum has lurked in the shadows for centuries, embedded in what deleuze and guattari refer to as the hydraulics of nomad science. one cannot document the act of surfing, the poiesis of being-in-body and becoming. like secret whispers passed throughout history from breath to ear, then, one can only document the wave."

rushing, futurism

Natalia Goncharova, Courtesy of Wikipedia and Russian Federation

natalia goncharova
the cyclist
oil on canvas, 78×105 cm
the russian museum, st. petersburg