hello world, i'm eight

Double Moebius

eights, twists, gestures
happy birthday to you.


In Growth and AutoImmune Wall, Amber displays a similar awareness of the matrixial web in which we exist. The pain is of a different sort, however. With each work, one imagines the countless hours invested, the permutations and combinations of the weave, all felt in the supple yet dull ache of the artist's fingers. In this familiarity with the fibres, one perceives time folded and compressed into a static artwork that strains at the very seams of its emergent process.

Amber is decidedly ambivalent about the connective fibres that form our relations. Though each work exhibits a lushness in its sinewy fabric, each also embodies the accidents of tangle, rupture and decay. In other words, they possess organic qualities to complement the technical elements of the fibre's production. Since each is made of the same "stuff" — that is, twine and string — this ambivalence becomes even more apparent when the works are taken together in assemblage, including also her earlier Wool Boxes and her more recent Falling, Skin Series, and Cancer, Crack and Chinese Shoes, the latter a collaborative effort.

Curiously, this proposition makes more sense in resonance with a recent quote by Garrick Barr, the CEO of Synergy Sports Technology, a company that provides a real-time video-indexing statistical engine and online retrieval system for professional sports teams: "So we have 11 generic play types. In '98 when I designed the first report, I had to sort of examine and figure out, if you will, the oncology of the sport so that we could log it accurately and consistently to satisfy professionals, and having been one I was in a pretty good position to try to do that" (italics added).

Generally speaking, ontology is the philosophical means of describing our very being in the world or what it means to exist, while oncology concerns the medical study and treatment of cancer. Noise in the signal system, yes? No problem, we are rapidly getting used to that — though one supposes some noises are heard more loudly than others.

In this case, however, the proverbial Freudian typo may be illustrative. The word ontology assumes a different meaning in the information sciences, understood instead as the study of rationally-determined relationships that govern a particular data set within a particular domain. This sort of attempt to develop an ontology of relationships present during the production of a professional sporting event, with ever-more minute striations of the athletic body yielding ever-less notable differences, is precisely such a mutation in process one would consider an oncological risk factor. When one examines the contemporary economics and politics of professional sport, one perceives an exponential accumulation of self-referential linguistic production in the service of vectoral capital, which is turning back in on itself to form what was first referred to by Jean Baudrillard as the cancer produced by the society of simulation.

These relations of athletic bodies emerge during the event, for they are moving bodies, and as such should be considered ontogenetic, to use the term proposed by Brian Massumi. But considering the attempt to capture this relationality in the service of self-referential capital, as with Synergy Sports Technology and its ilk, we might also consider them oncogenetic, or possessing the potential under certain conditions to spawn exponentially cancerous growths. One weaves and weaves and weaves, fingers supple and aching, only to find cancer and death.

(from the forthcoming essay "relational fibres and optics," to appear in a catalogue by artist amber scoon)


"I hear it feels like you escape gravity."

So breathlessly whispers the awed female reporter to Dan Davis, the elite American sprinter and protagonist of "World Record," one of the animated short films featured in the Animatrix anthology. Davis is returning to top form after having been stripped of a previous world record race time and is poised to run in the finals of a major competition the following day. Though he faces a private battle of self-doubt concerning his comeback, Davis is all bravado and sexuality as he crosses the hotel lobby toward the elevator, reporter in tow.

"It's like nothing in this world."

Of course, Dan Davis, like everyone else in this cast of characters, lives in the Matrix, the Wachowski-inspired simulation of reality born of statistical method and synthetic perception. This alter-reality serves to keep docile an entire breed of domesticated humans that provide bioelectrical power to the machines that have supplanted Homo sapiens on the evolutionary ladder. As Paul Virilio notes, escape velocity on a world scale of bodies, or space colonization, has proven to be an empty dream. Empire thus turns inward to endocolonize its subjects, not the least through information technologies that interface with the human body. Dan Davis' performance at the stadium produces gravitational resonance with the others who run with him, as well as information that is then fed back into the simulation.

The narrator reminds us at the beginning of the film that only the most exceptional people, through intuition, sensitivity, and a questioning nature, become aware of the Matrix. Under certain circumstances, however, others may gain this insight as well. Our protagonist is hampered by an injured quadriceps muscle as he steps into the starting blocks for the finals, but Agents from the Matrix are on hand to monitor his performance. The gun fires and the runners blast from the blocks to accelerate down the track. With his huge elegant strides, Davis edges into the lead as the pack approaches the finish line. All of a sudden the muscle fibres of Davis' quadriceps are pushed to rupture; he nearly breaks stride. With time slowing down, Davis redoubles his determination and pushes through the pain screaming from a muscle responsible solely for speed-producing force contractions. The Agents are alerted to a possible security breach in the network; they attempt to capture him.

Suddenly time stops, or more precisely, folds in upon itself. The pain is unbearable, but for a split-second goes unnoticed. The floating numerical linguistics of time, space and athletic performance envelop his body, immanently, revealing themselves as part of the broader weave of mathematics and image that creates the simulation. He is beyond the grasp of the Agents. Dan Davis has become aware of the Matrix.

For the rest of us still stuck here, however, some questions are in order. Is it simply the pursuit of raw, unadulterated speed that makes one aware of the Matrix? After all, Davis had already broken the world record before, abetted by pharmaceuticals or not. Why hadn't he become aware already? Did he reach an objective switch point with his new world record time of 8.69 seconds, which propelled him into a different channel on the network or granted him passage beyond?

No. Dan Davis became aware of the Matrix when his moving athletic body reached a strategic nexus of speed, poiesis and pain.

(from the forthcoming essay "relational fibres and optics," to appear in a catalogue by artist amber scoon)

Two Out, Men on First and Second

Blister Pack

Relay Running on the Inside Track

An athletics track is one of the more interesting geometrical forms in the world of sport. Simple, elegant, sometimes made of space-age synthetic polymers, other times a proud scar of cracked dirt in an otherwise empty grass lot. Four hundred metres or a quarter mile around, depending on one's cultural history, but either way bearing infinite spatial folds and potentials within this bounded parameter.

The track is a hybrid form, not quite certain if it wants to be a circle or a rectangle, and thus incorporates elements of both: the perfect rhythm and always-becoming of the circular form; the endless reproducibility and technicality of the linear.

But the secret is that this hybrid plays favourites. The curved bits of the track serve primarily to maintain the speed manufactured during the linear portions, which would otherwise be lost if one had to turn on a right angle at the end of a straightaway. Speed seems to play a significant role in the emergence of our architectural forms.

This holds true whether we are discussing the material architectures of the track, stadium, and cityscape, or the informational architectures that comprise our media channels and institutions. As bodies navigate the hurried society we've constructed, their speed demands architectural forms that can keep pace, much like the designated rabbit in a staged assault on a running world record.

* * *

(excerpt from "the unexamined sporting life," the first in a new sportsbabel column at the mark magazine)

olympism (sb rmx)

Style, Virtuosity, Tango

"An act of virtuosity has as its wellspring the attempt to be virtuous, which transcends any attempts at mere functional or technical competence. It is in this attempt to be virtuous as athletic-subjects that a sporting micropolitics is contested." — Pierre de Coubertin feat. Paolo Virno (sb rmx)