Shooting the Messenger

While surfing through Dj Spooky's web site, I came across an interesting quote by the French artist Marcel Duchamp:

"In the chain of reactions accompanying the creative act, a link is missing. This gap, representing the inability of the artist to express fully his intention, this difference between what he intended to realize and did realize, is the personal 'art coefficient' contained in the work. In other words, the personal 'art coefficient' is like an arithmetical relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed. … All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists."

(Session on the Creative Act, Convention of the American Federation of Arts, April 1957)

That got me thinking about an enigmatic player from the NBA archives, Pete Maravich. The "Pistol", as he was known, was one of the most electrifying players ever to play in the league, and that still holds true today. In fact, in some ways, he probably was one of the few that paved the way for the highlight reel generation of athletes that exists today. As I mentioned earlier, however, I come from a basketball family, and I never heard of him while growing up. Very interesting.

An excerpt from the NBA's profile on Maravich states:

"Maravich wasn't the first player to dribble behind his back or make a deft between-the-legs pass. But his playground moves, circus shots, and hotdog passes were considered outrageous during his era and, perhaps because he cultivated a freewheeling image, some basketball purists felt he was more style than substance. But Maravich produced huge numbers, first as the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history and later as a potent force for both the Atlanta Hawks and the New Orleans Jazz."

Returning to Duchamp, the relationship between the artist and spectator is certainly worth examination. Here is a player who 'put up numbers', albeit with flair. And when the spectator interpreted the inner qualification of Pistol's performance, it was found lacking, mostly because he never won a championship (or even came close, to be honest).

Courtesy EA SportsCourtesy EA SportsCourtesy EA SportsCourtesy EA SportsCourtesy EA Sports

Yet 25 years after his prime, and 15 years after his passing, posterity has given its final verdict, and rehabilitated a forgotten artist.

So now I am confused. Is the 'art coefficient' the limit that will forever elude attempts to create the wormhole?


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