gait surfing

Kinoderm Abrasion: Notes on a Pedagogy of Deterritorializing the Archive

Sean Smith
Department of Biological Flow
Artist/Scholar-in-Residence, University of Western Ontario

(to be presented at the ‘Deleuze, Guattari and the Arts’ Conference, King’s College, University of Western Ontario, May 4-6, 2012)

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We approach as if wasps forming a rhizome with the orchids of Deleuzian thought. Or, we thank you in advance for legitimating our presence and granting us the power of voice. Nomads or agents of the state, we are not certain as to whom we should address our submission, but we shall initiate a politics of approach that errs on the side of the former. And is this not to a certain degree the politics Deleuze and Guattari advance in their admittedly undertheorized concept of holey space: the ability to surf at the threshold between the ever-contingent striations of state authority and the myriad subjectivities and contexts we may understand as nomadic?

From 2008-2011, the art collective Department of Biological Flow developed an extended project of research-creation titled “Walking is In(di)visible”. Beginning with an interest in the aesthetics and politics of surveillant optics in urban milieus, and an embodied engagement with Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of smooth and striated spaces, the “Walking is In(di)visible” trajectory produced 16 artworks spanning performance, installation, text, image, poetry and motion capture. Following an initial walking study in Toronto titled Gait Surfing, emergent questions for our processes and technics concerned intensity, archiving, witnessing, memory, gender, ethics, fragility and minor practice.

As with our salutation above, Gait Surfing was an attempt to negotiate a liquid terrain, perhaps a metaphor for our ability to move through public and quasi-public corporatized spaces: the surfer who rides at the break-point between the wave’s signal and its becoming-noise, who stays slightly ahead of the movement in order to glide stylishly to the beach. Our attempts to document these practices at the threshold between surveillant optics and smoothing gestural haptics led to works titled Kino-Gait Study No.3 and Natality (Ingrid)—experiments in the non-representation of process that deeply informed the subsequent unfolding of “Walking is In(di)visible”.

At the terminus of this broader trajectory, in a subtle move from intuition, affect and percept to retrospective coding, we produced a catalogue of our efforts and a conceptual framework titled Toward a Kinoderm Aesthetics, which at its core asked simply “what if one’s skin could see?”

Shortly thereafter, as one terminus flipped into the incipience of new tendencies, our concern shifted: had we simply reproduced (once again) the invisible powers of surveillance that govern everyday movements and tempos—this time as a perfect enclosure of illusory freedom, a kino-plasticity appropriate to the society of control? If so, how to tear apart this conceptual framework and yet continue to push forward with experimental investigations concerning the opportunities for movement in surveillant publics? Or, as we came to understand the question thereafter, how to deterritorialize a certain image of thought before it sedimented within our own work and infected the set of relations it was in the process of creating? Call it kinoderm abrasion.

This paper presents a short case study of the Department of Biological Flow project “Walking is In(di)visible”, exploring some of these emergent questions through process. It then concludes with more recent pedagogical efforts as Artist/Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Western Ontario: the transduction of certain research-creation technics, the negotiation between art and philosophy, and the performative deterritorialization of the archive.

(Includes group participation performance workshop of Gait Surfing.)