Some more about The World’s Fastest Indian.
To a certain extent, Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) is something of an automobilised equivalent to Deleuze and Guattari’s itinerent labourers in ATP (“freemasons” who built the medieval cathedrals of Europe). The freemasons did not construct space from the conceptual abstract space of architectural ruminations, but cleaved it from rock. Munro does not necessarily construct ‘speed’ from equations or abstractions, but grasps or figures it in experimentations. The line “Offerings to the God of Speed” appears in the movie scawled across a shelf full of what appeared to be failed pistons from the motorbike engine. Munro has been casting his own pistons from old car parts. He is pursuing the traits of ‘strength’ and ‘lightness’ along the machinic phylum of automobility, thus producing a singular technological genealogy.
In experimentation he discovers the ‘right’ mixture for the smelted piston come from a Ford and some from a Chevy. This is the purest expression of ‘modification’, not the insertion of a variation as such (the neo-platonic essence of something is changed), but the pursuit of a ‘trait’ (singularities) and the production of a singular line of becoming. In this case it is becoming-(World’s Fastest) Indian. Interestingly, however, the experimentation is not one of car parts turned into motorcycle components, the motorbike is merely the tool used in the actual experimentation with speed. The motorbike is an automated laboratory that enables exprimentations with the combustion and logistico-mechnical dimensions of speed.
Importantly, ‘speed’ here is not the reified ‘speed’ of the Imperialistic colonial power (in Australia or, in Munro’s case, New Zealand), but the absolute speed of closed systemic variation organised or distributed around an attractor. The actual speed produced is a speed of both slowness and fastness. Munro’s bike will take as long as it will take. The only urgency comes when he feels himself dying; to remedy this he is given tablets of nitroglycerene. Nitro is quite literally rocket fuel and an explosive. It is an odd parrallel to another cinematic essay on speed, Vanishing Point. The ‘driver’ in Vanishing Point, Kowalski (played by Barry Newman), also takes ‘speed’. This is an acceleration of the human to ‘keep up’ with the consistency of speed produced by the techno-mechenical.
Yet, the basin of attraction within which Munro orbits posits him beyond the known. Not in the sense of the unknown which must be colonised, that is, a territory of an-other which must be transformed or captured, but beyond a threshold of speed the production of a new territory which can thus be populated. “What will she do?” is the perenial question asked by enthusiasts. (A differential variation of which is “Are you man enough?”) This is not necessarily a ‘dick-off’ (granted, it may be), but what I think is at stake is the population of the ‘new’ territory produced be it etched in enthusiast discourse as masculinist or technologist. The post-colonial dimension of the ‘Indian’ coming ‘home’ to the US from another (post)colonial space, New Zealand, when there is little evidence of a Maori population is more than ironic.
The production of a ‘new Earth’ is the sole task of the marginalised, disaffected, etc. The Birmingham School tradition of cultural studies attempted to capture and express this function of youth cultures. It is certainly still happening; the only problem for people trapped in a hypstatic conception of subcultural theory is that it is not necessarily inflected by class differentiations. Hmm, I digress…
Here, then, is where the ‘hoon‘ enters the scene. Road safety practioners can only see ‘risk’ above the threshold of the ‘speed limit’. The consistency of everyday traffic produces a rhythmic space-time of urban circulation. In part, hoons exists on these rhythms as something like a surfer riding the socio-logistical waves of traffic. Above the speed limit is a new territory.