I’ve been reading the above book lately, and while I don’t generally make a habit of getting involved with subtitles like Essays on Art & Democracy, I might have to start now, because the following paragraph struck me so solidly that I spontaneously read it aloud to my long-suffering wife. Here goes:
“…it has always seemed to me that the trick of civilization lies in recognizing the moment when a rule ceases to liberate and begins to govern — and this brings us back to the glory of hoops. Because among all the arts of disputation our culture provides, basketball has been supreme in recognizing this moment of portending government and in deflecting it, by changing the rules when they threaten to make the game less beautiful and visible, when the game stops liberating and begins to educate. And even though basketball is not a fine art — even though it is merely an armature upon which we project the image of our desire, while art purports to embody that image — the fact remains that every style change that basketball has undergone in this century has been motivated by a desire to make the game more joyful, various, and articulate, while nearly every style change in fine art has been, in some way, motivated by the opposite agenda. Thus basketball, which began this century as a pedagogical discipline, concludes it as a much beloved public spectacle, while fine art, which began this century as a much beloved public spectacle, has ended up where basketball began — in the YMCA or its equivalent — governed rather than liberated by its rules*.
I don’t know shit about art, but I know I love basketball very much, and have been curious for a long time about why so few people nowadays seem to care about art, whereas so many care about basketball. And these words seemed to propose a reason.
* my emphasis