Chapter 9. “It’s really strange when nobody is watching”

image of Chapter 9. “It’s really strange when nobody is watching”

The artful practices of freestyle skiing present a paradox: despite the fact that freeskiing is a solo sport requiring no team interaction, freeskiers routinely refuse to practice their tricks if no other freeskiers are around to watch them. My contribution sets out to explain this riddle by showing how local congregations of skiers interactively assemble what I call a Spielraum – sites of watching and being watched within which mutual attunement and a shared teleoaffective tension enable athletes to perform dangerous and difficult tricks they would not dare or care to try on their own. Using video analysis and ethnographic data from four years of fieldwork in the German-speaking freeskiing scene, I demonstrate how spatial positioning, bodily posture, lines of sight and practices of seeing are artfully combined to unfold sites of athletic performance on inhabitable mountains. I show that the three ingredients of intercorporeality suggested by Meyer and v. Wedelstaedt are key preconditions for learning and performing freestyle skiing: mutual attention, a shared rhythm, and bodily tuning into others’ performance. Drawing on Heidegger as well as recent practice-based theories of space, I conceptualize the Spielraum of practices as the site within which enactive intercorporeality becomes possible – and which is in turn itself a product of enactive engagement.



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