The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality


Reality can be for many people a city moving or the quiet country. Here, movement relates to a dynamically changing system, that in the process of moving creates noise and friction. Movement in the city comprises of simultaneous mass acts of automobility in the form of transportation (a form of urban literature as De Certeau asserts [1984]), as well as the expansion and contraction of the city by the creation and destruction of buildings and spaces. Nature constantly moves and changes as well, from the state of the vegetation and animals, to the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates jostling for position. The key differentiation here is the speed of relative movement. Television and other media technologies are the opposite extreme, mediating real and imaginary events and spaces across great distances, resulting in a compression of space-time. Similarly, the quick transversal of space, as performed by a subject exposed to speed, also causes a perceptual compression in space-time.

The physiological affect of kinaesthesia (moving through space) results in ‘telluric contraction’, negating the people, culture and politics of spaces (Virlio, 1990: 18). Virilio claims that the vehicle causes this state of atopia, the ‘derealisation’ of urban space. Atopia is derived from the Greek adjective atopos, and is the reverse concept of the term topos, or ‘place’: literally ‘no place’ (Virilio, 1984: 217). On the other hand, the moving perspectivism of speed transforms dead, still nature to life. This is just in the same way that the early cinematographic motion of the camera brings history back to life (Schnapp, 1999: note 81). So while the kinaesthetic affect of motion negates the travelled space, it also reanimates the space. With the advent of automobility, urban spaces may be transgressed with ignorance, but the aesthetics of the transgression retains the meanings of the cityscape/landscape.

This leads to the idea that motion creates, and motionlessness destroys. The sum total in the experience of speed is one of generation and degeneration, formed and deformed on the whim of the kinematic subject’s actions. With simulations we have the situation of imaginary, lifeless environments brought to life through simulated motion. In this case, the concept of the Real is questionable.