The Image Aftermarket

Courtesy of NBA Classic

(that memory box . . .)

Watching snippets of a so-called "classic" NBA basketball game on television recently, it dawns on me that the way players on the floor move their bodies at this highest level of the sport has changed dramatically over the past forty years. The athletes are bigger, faster and stronger. The skills they execute become that much more challenging and precise in order to keep pace with the situation.

It appears that gestural language has modulated far more rapidly than its spoken or written counterparts, does it not?

And yet interestingly the play-by-play and colour narratives — the spoken interpretations of action unfolding on the court — do not sound like they have changed much at all. Or perhaps differently, the eye+ear of the narrated game has obscured the eye+proprioception of the sympathetic audience.

One can often recycle the televised image of "classic" games precisely for the reason that many people cannot remember their original outcomes. And yet the characters all remain familiar to the home televiewer, much like Macbeth, James Bond, or Lisa Simpson. In this sense, the "classic" game may exist as a memory marker for certain fans, while for others it potentially offers an experience of nostalgia blended with a "new" outcome.

The game plays itself over and over again without having to additionally pay the (by now old and retired) players. The images themselves do the work: call it untouched labour.


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