(Part one of Art and Sports can be found here)
I think both art and sport are at their most transcendent when order breaks down (by accident or by design) and improvisation takes over.
With a lot of sports, this is a built-in feature: you make a move, your opponent responds with his own move, and, based on this new configuration, you make your next move, ad infinitum, creating a feedback loop. In chess, the period of the loop can stretch out as players (or supercomputers) run through possible permutations and outcomes. In football, it may be only a fraction of a second as a quarterback reacts to a blitz.
The array of choices available for any given iteration of the feedback loop isn’t infinite. In sports, it’s bounded by the rules of the game; in music, by the key and time signature. Staying in bounds keeps things intelligible, but transcending the bounds makes art.
A question was posed to myself and ThisIsWater.org’s editor from this site’s other blogger a couple days ago via email: Should sports be considered art? Or at least, artful?
In response to this I thought about what motivation artists have for creating art as opposed to the motivation athletes have when engaging in competition with other athletes. Let’s look at football for instance. A quarterback’s goal is to win. How that goal is achieved is superfluous. One might call Tom Brady and Peyton Manning “conductors” behind the line, but what about a Ben Roethlisberger or a Mark Sanchez? They are wrecks out there, but both win games and are impressively consistent at what they do. Art is not the opposite of Sport but simply different from it. Art is about content and not about winning. What is there to win? Fame and recognition perhaps, but what is the end goal? Athletes have clear goals in mind, and at the forefront of those goals is winning. Is performance meaningless if a win is not produced? Don’t ask a fan like myself that question–ask an athlete.
Artists have goals in mind, but those goals are more often than not personal and/or varied depending on the individual artist. The term art is hard to define and is an unarguably subjective field. It seems today a frequent question asked regarding every aspect of human existence is, “Should we call this art?” I guess we could switch the subjects of this question and ask, “Is art a sport?” It has been said that portions of art such as the business side could be considered a “blood sport.” If one wants to call a sport an art-form or an athlete an artist that is his or her own prerogative. However, I call sports…sports.
Are there artistic aspects of athletic performance? Sure–if the athletes themselves are thinking in those terms when performing them. Another question that we might want to explore is the difference between showmanship and art. Showmanship adds very little to a team’s chances of winning but is in some cases a crowd pleasing gesture. I believe both art and sports have so much to offer humanity that is seems demeaning to both forms and those that perform and/or create within them to try to place one into the other and vice versa. Each of the above-mentioned endeavors are so incredibly unique that they can easily stand on their own without the help of something else trying to define them.