Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Turner un Parkour

A friend once said he never really felt like an anarchist until he started doing parkour. Parkour is word derived from the French parcours (course), referring to a sport based on traveling from one point to another in an urban area in the most rapid and efficient way possible. It's also referred to as l'art du déplacement, or the art of movement. Its philosophy is non-competetive, and emphasises a freedom of movement in surroundings designed to do just that, to surround, to shelter, and to enclose. It's internationally known for its impressive feats of physical ability, such as running up vertical walls for several steps; an early online video that increased the popularity of parkour was entitled "Matrix Moves - Le Parkour," and another "Real Matrix Parkour," relating it to the popular movie.

Michel de Certeau claims that city is a strategic construct, the artifice of economic and political institutions, plotted and viewed as a unified whole. In this model, the wandering flâneur and the rushed person taking a short cut both avoid the control governments and corporations attempt to exert over the city through their urban planning. The traceurs and traceuses (male and female practitioners of parkour, respectively) are the epitome of this; even roofs, buildings, and walls do not impede their progress down their chosen course. They can, and will, do a handstand on an escalator. Most of the limitations that those creating a city attempt to impose upon them, they readily shirk.

Much of parkour arguably occurs outside of his description of walking, though, by a temporal necessity. The processes of synechdoche and asyndeton would be entirely inapplicable. In the case of synechdoche, a part can less aptly come to represent the whole when all parts of the whole must be considered; a door doesn't represent the entirety of a building, since the walls and roof could be part of a traceur or traceuse's path as much as could the door most people consider. Asyndeton is entirely foreign in a system where connections, too, are of the utmost importance. Parkour is most centrally about the artfullness with which the "conjunctions" asyndeton does away with are executed.

Parkour, in other ways, extremifies de Certeau's concept of walking, as even interdictions can often be turned into possibilities that the traceur or traceuse makes "exist as well as emergy," to quote de Certeau. The philosophy and physical act of parkour closely mirror de Certeau's tactic. Parkour doesn't involve attempts to win, and generally defies the idea of competition. It's focussed on reclaiming natural, human movements from a controlling urban system. The movements of parkour are focussed on mobility, rather than conflict or combat (despite many arguing that it's closer to a martial art than a sport), and instead are focussed on being able to escape from any place or thing, as if in an emergency situation, swiftly and efficiently.

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