From Waaaay Downtown

Artist Gabriel Orozco comments on games on Art21 by saying, “What I like about games is that a game is a thing on its own. So you have a little world, in this board or in this table, design to perfection so you can play in a landscape and when it is a good game it’s so passionate that you can really get into this world and just live in it.” I do agree with his statement, but what happens when that game becomes so large that it begins to also impact the larger world around it?

In contemporary basketball, there has been a large shift in how the game is played. The use of analytics now dominates where teams shoot more three point baskets and layups than ever before (basically because, statistically, shooting 33.3% from the three-point line is just as effective as shooting 50% from right under the basketball hoop). The polarizing large markets that dominated the league also no longer reign supreme due to the rise of social mobility increasing player mobility.

The rise of the use of analytics in sports is used by managers of teams to create the most efficient team consisting of the most efficient players based on statistics generated by those players and the rest of the league. The theory here being that by using analytics, you can get the most out of your roster, ultimately allowing your team to win the most games it can for spending the least amount of money. Analytics however is not perfect because humans are not perfect. For example, regular season numbers don’t always translate to playoff numbers. Game pressure also has an impact on how players perform. Injuries and fatigue are also an unpredictable factors that influence player performance. Analytics also doesn’t account for the fact that basketball is a team game where teammate chemistry plays an important role to winning.

The current championship team in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors of Oakland, California. They are the first NBA team to win multiple championships as a “primarily” three point shooting team. I say primarily three point shooting team not just because their three best players (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant) are three of the best three point shooting players in the league, but also because they use this to their advantage to get easier shots closer to the basket. Their shooters are so good at shooting that the defense often overcompensates in their positioning and this allows another player to slip to the basket for an easy layup.

The larger markets such as New York and Los Angeles used to have a greater ability to attract players to play in these cities. Besides the salary the player earned from the team, these cities offered other means of financial gain for the players because these cities are where the endorsements and exposure reside. That has all changed now with social media. Now the power of exposure is in the athlete’s hands. The allure of the large market no longer attracts the athlete like it used too because the athlete can now gain exposure and endorsements using their social media accounts. This dramatically changes how NBA rosters form now because players aren’t weighing that option as heavily as they used to. A player might decide to play, or stay, in Oklahmoa City or Milwaukee because they can engage with their fans online. With online streaming, fans can also watch their favorite teams play even if they live in a different city. Fans of the Golden State Warriers can now watch their games online even though they live in Philadelphia.

Artist Paul Pfieffer’s series of digital prints titled Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse engages with these issues and then some. In this series, he digitally manipulates photographs from the NBA’s vault of imagery by removing all but one player (usually a player being slam dunked on) on court and by removing that player’s name and number on their jersey. All that is left in the image is the player and the audience.

The removal of the players name and number suggests a removal of identity of the player as seen through the lens of analytics. Under the lens of analytics, the person the player is doesn’t matter as much as the statistics that player has. Pfieffer says in an interview with Art21, “It looks like his head is chopped off; all of his limbs look awkward. To me, it almost resembles the figure in a photograph of a lynching. At any rate, there’s a strange kind of inconsistency to the composition of the image. At the same time, this awkwardly composed person is standing dead center in an arena, surrounded by thousands of people who are watching—and there is no ball, no basket, no reason for him to be jumping or floating in this way” (Pfieffer). His reference to the resemblance of a lynching is haunting because sports are very violent occupations that take a toll on the players both physically and mentally just so the team owner can make money off the athlete. This is the danger of viewing individuals as merely numbers and data because it reinforces that the athlete is just an object to sell.

Dream 12/6/17

I am either walking or running in a natural setting that is similar to Iuka Park Ravine located in the main off campus neighborhood near The Ohio State University’s main campus. I feel completely at home and in my natural setting. After exploring some, the dream cuts to my father’s house. This version of my father’s house isn’t my father’s house that I am familiar with though. I don’t have a bedroom here but all of my stuff is piled up on the living room floor.

Extended family is over for dinner. I’m trying to dress correctly for the occasion but all I can find are graphic t-shirts with my political beliefs that are contradictory to my family’s political beliefs. I feel very uneasy.

I finally decide on an outfit and then make my way towards the kitchen to join the party and eat some food. There is no food out though. I open the fridge and also find no evidence of recently prepared food to eat. Discouraged, I begin to sift through containers of leftovers for something to consume but fail to find anything appealing. The setting then slowly morphs from a kitchen to a restaurant and I find myself sitting in a booth with my father and extended family. Conversation continues though I’m not sure what’s being discussed. My dad then turns to me and asks if we could could go to the park from before and go for a run together after dinner. I am torn because I want to go run with him but I already ran earlier that day and I haven’t recovered yet.

While trying to explain this to him, the restaurant shifts back into the park but it’s much later in the day and I am either walking or running again. I notice that my dad is not with me. As I reach a top of a cliff, the weight of the dark night intensifies and I realize that I need to get home. I ascend the mountain and then climb down on the other side of it. The other side was not nearly as high up as the other side made it out to be. The other side also exposed that the mountain wasn’t a natural formed mountain but more like a stage prop where the inner structure was a series two by fours supports. Next to the exposed supports was a road that led into a small neighbor hood of about eight to ten houses. Two other people accompany me at this point but I do not know who they are.

We walk down the road until we reach a house that I assume is my father’s new house and we enter it. I can’t make out the specifics of the people here but I do see my sisters Paige and Molly having a discussion as to why Paige and her last boyfriend broke up. The interior of the house never completely sets in which makes me to feel very disconnected in this environment so I decide to leave. On my way out, my stepmother confronts me and tells me something that I cannot understand. From what I can read of her body language, she is yelling at me and telling me negative things as if to verify that that setting was not suited for me. I don’t argue back as I keep walking out of the house. With nowhere to go, I notice that my cousin Kayla was living just down the street. As I walk by her house, she yells out and offers me a place to stay. As I enter her house, I wake up.

Virtual Projections

The definition of the term virtual existed long before associations with technological simulations or immaterial spaces. The word comes from the Latin virtualis meaning possessed of certain physical virtues or capacities; effective in respect of inherent natural powers; capable of exerting influence by means of such qualities. Under this definition, the virtual is not the opposite of the real. Describing something as being virtual is to say that it has qualities that make it practically indistinguishable from what it is similar to.

Henri Bergson describes the virtual as being, “the intertwining of the past and memory, the future and imagination, and present-tense perceptions that drop out of our viewfinders” (King 102). To Bergson, this is what persists and accompanies our perception of the world around us. Though Bergson doesn’t believe that our interpretations of the world around us are necessarily repressed material of our unconscious, what he does seem to hint at is that it’s the “intertwining” of the past, future, and present that is then projected onto the experience and is given context for the viewer.

Though Bergson rejects a psychoanalytical approach about the virtual, he actually further solidifies both Lacan and Jung. In Steven Z. Levine’s Lacan Reframed, he discusses how the gaze of the other attempts to appear through the act of art making by writing, “The eye made desperate by the gaze seeks relaxation from its duress by making still more art, by showing still more art, by viewing still more art, again and again and again. And that is why we have an endlessly changing yet repeating history of art” (Levine 90). Through this act of making and seeing repeatedly we build up our past and present language of what the other is saying through the art and it in turn influences our perception of the art.

Jung argues that only the contents of our consciousness can be stored into our subconscious such as our desires, impulses, intentions, affections, observations, and intuitions. However, there are times where we either forget or cannot recall where specific stored information comes from. Jung called this cryptomnesia. The past memory aspect of our interactions with the world around us could very well be built off these cryptomnesiac moments from our childhood. It’s these memories that Bergson himself states to be an aspect of virtuality, which in fact interacts with our present perceptions and future imaginings.

The most common contemporary use of the virtual is to describe a space that is acknowledged as not being real. Even virtual reality is being described as something different than the original definition would depict. VR is proposed as a different reality from the one we normally experience. It’s a space to escape to when the normal reality is not what we would have hoped for. This desire to escape the physical plane is troublesome. King writes about Hannah Arendt’s parable about the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite in her book Virtual Memory. She writes, “Arendt noted a collective sigh of relief from Earth’s inhabitants at the satellite’s dispatch: a general sense of optimism in the face of this ‘first step toward escape from men’s imprisonment to the earth’” (King 1). The imprisonment on the earth implies that people want to escape, but escape what? King then writes, “The longing to escape the planet and the idea that earth’s inhabitants were imprisoned or shackled to its surface went hand in hand with the degradation of tangible, incarnate, sensory experience, along with the kinds of thought, speech, and action that are made possible by embodied perception” (King 1).

The decline in sensory experience and embodied perception alters our relationship to virtuality and is probably where the definition has changed. The definition no longer refers to something being completely similar and related to something that actually exists but now refers to something being completely similar but is in no way related to something that actually exists. The search for other inhabitable planets is just like this. We hope to find a planet that is completely similar to that of earth but is not related to this planet whatsoever. It is in this phenomenon that virtual reality is also a similar yet not connected experience. Both are modes of dissociation as ways to fix our problems instead of confronting them and learning to accept our limits as individuals and as a species.

Dream 11/27/17

My friend Alyssa and I are returning home from a concert we went to together. We’re driving home in her car listening to music while conversing through idle chitchat. We end up stopping for Wendy’s for some food. While she goes to the bathroom for an extended amount of time, I sit alone and eat French fries and contemplate about the concert we just came from.

On the road again, we decide to go to Blacklick Park in Reynoldsburg instead of just going home. I then realized that Alyssa’s presence is different than it normally is. She is no longer toxic and manipulative but she also isn’t the exactly the opposite of toxic and manipulative. She does seem more subdued and childlike. She also seems extremely worried about something. She seems to be trying very hard to be accommodating to me but she is having a difficult time in doing so. She also seems like she is hiding a secret of some sort. She’s on the verge of telling me something but she never confesses to what it is.

The neighborhood we are in is the same neighborhood that my mother lives in which is just a couple blocks away from the park. However, the normal streets to get there were no longer the same streets. Since I am more familiar with the area, I take charge charge of the navigation. We never end up at the park but along the way I slowly began to realize that the typical power dynamic of our relationship has been flipped. I am now the one in control of the situation and I can feel Alyssa succumb to my role as the leader. For a moment, a thought of revenge towards her flashes in my mind but I do not act upon it. Instead, I wish to not have this power over her. This is where I wake up.

Need For Speed

French philosopher Paul Virilio is best known for coining the term Dromology, or the science of speed. He states that speed, specifically the speed of people, has been an important factor in the development of society. The government has always manipulated the speed of its people in order to control the movement of its people. An early example of this is the construction of roads within the city’s walls to better mobilize armies during siege tactics. However, the invention of guns made city walls obsolete yet the roads still remained in the city, now allowing the people to utilize this technology and move faster within the city’s borders. The speed of the people is now being limited to prevent possible revolution. Virilio uses the example of highway speed limits to express this.

Virilio also uses speed as a basis to attempt to understand the current human condition. Virilio writes, “The development of high technical speeds would thus result in the disappearance of consciousness as the direct perception of phenomena that informs us of our own existence” (Virilio, Aesthetics of Disappearance 114). By replacing our interactions with our environment with ones that are manufactured or simulated, our interpretations of the world can then become manipulated. Virilio also writes, “… as if virtual images of informatics as well as televisual images were only the syndrome of a coming transparence that would affect, this time, consciousness itself” (Virilio, Lost Dimension 150).

According to Jung, the things that inhabit our consciousness eventually get stored into our subconscious. Jung would come across this through his relationships with his psychiatric patients. Van der Berk writes, “Jung identified many kinds of such contents: desires, impulses, intentions, affections, observances, intuitions, etc. All of this material can be unconsciously stored, either fully or partially, temporarily or permanently” (van der berk 5). If we consciously digest contents that are fabricated or manipulated, then they can also get stored into our psyche, creating false interpretations of the world.

In Stephen M. Kosslyn’s book, Image and Mind, Kosslyn explores the importance of imagery in information storage. He also goes into depth about the experiments he conducted in relation to images and information. Through his experiments, Kosslyn concludes, “Mental images appear in a sort of three-dimensional space. This in no way means that images occur in a real three-dimensional space, but rather in an environment that possesses certain functional properties in common with that type of space” (Kosslyn 108). This three-dimensional space is the same three-dimensional space that occurs in photographs, film, and computer memory. Kosslyn then writes, “… images also allow one to transform information, to mimic dynamic aspects of our environment… we use our imagery as a ‘simulation’ of possible (and, perhaps, of impossible) transformations in the world” (Kosslyn 456).

This simulated space potentially creates a conundrum. By replacing our own conscious level of interaction with that of one that is simulated, we are subjecting our consciousness with imagery that behaves just like our own mental imagery. This potentially allows our unconscious to more readily store the simulated imagery. Kosslyn also writes, “In addition to possibly serving some role in concept learning, reasoning, and pattern recognition, imagery my well serve to make unconscious thoughts and desires manifest in consciousness, as Freud and others have maintained” (Kosslyn 456).

In Jung’s individuation process, he proposes that the inner transformation of an individual becoming a mature individual within society exists within five phases. We constantly flow between these phases and different parts of our being can exist in different phases as well. Van der Berk writes, “The unconscious mind of this modern person functions in the same way as it did for millions of years. The people from ancient times and for the most part also our own great-grandparents were unconscious of their projections, but they knew how to channel their unconscious drives by means of their projections.” Van der Berk continues, “The modern person, who is predominantly engaged with rational consciousness, represses this unconscious world rather than integrating it into his consciousness.” (Van der Berk 41-42). The difference between the modern man and their ancestors is the evolution of technology and the manipulation of conscious material.

Dream 10/19/2017

I am sitting in my high school band class before class begins. I can only make out who two of the people in the full band room, Polina and Mr. Stevens. Mr. Stevens, the band instructor, is gathering our attention to begin conducting us. I fumble putting my clarinet to my mouth as the band starts to play. I find myself unable to play the music correctly. A short time elapses and slowly the rest of the band besides Polina, Mr. Stevens, and I begin to morph into my mother’s living room. The sound of the band also fades away and all that remains is Polina playing. The sound of her music is no longer the sound of a clarinet but rather a more atmospheric and organic sound. Mr. Stevens continues to conduct her as they ignore me.

Polina is sitting in my mother’s chair and my mother is nowhere to be seen. I then begin to play a handheld video game that I played often at my mother’s house when I was younger. In this moment, I feel extremely comfortable and for a brief time I completely ignore the specifics of the moment.

It then hits me that I need to use the restroom. As I make my way towards the restroom, I find that the bathroom door is closed. The bathroom door at my mother’s house is only closed when in use but I go to open the door anyway. Inside, my stepfather is not wearing pants but is wearing a long enough shift to cover his private spots. He then walks past me into the living room where Polina and Mr. Stevens still reside. I then walk into the bathroom and as I close the door I wake up.

Cut The Kid In Half

I was born on May 16th, 1990 to Angela and Richard Van Horn in Columbus, Ohio. Shortly after my birth, my parents divorced. I have no memories of my parents ever being together except one that might be a memory but it also might just be a dream.

My parents agreed on split custody since they both still lived in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The custody schedule they initially made was every Monday and Thursday I would be at my mother’s and every Tuesday and Wednesday I would be at my father’s. The weekends alternated between the two. This schedule made sense when I was young but it became extremely complicated when I started school.

At some point early in my childhood, I became aware that my parents had radically different parenting values. My mother was more interested in schoolwork and art while my father was more interested in sports and finances. These would ultimately create two different versions of myself. There was the son my mother wanted and the son my father wanted which wasn’t always the same thing. The schedule they set in place would require me to jump from identity to identity multiple times a week. It would remain this way up until I went to college.

The optimist in me used to think that this was only a boon. I used to think having these two dramatically different parenting styles made me a more rounded person. In a way it has but the divorce actually has had deep psychological implications too. For example, I find it very difficult to be in romantic relationships because I find myself bending over backwards to make sure there is never any tension in the relationship, which, ironically, always leads to tension in the relationship. The resulting termination of that relationship would then trigger the same emotional response to that of my parents separating.

Turning eighteen was when I was finally free of the custody schedule legally. Though, as an adult, I’ve been able to choose which values I wanted to keep for myself from this situation, I’m still learning and becoming more in tune with the deeper impact that my childhood has had on me as an adult.