Paul Pfeiffer John 3:16 2000

  • Not on view

Pfeiffer transforms an ordinary televised NBA basketball game into a rapturous study of spectacle and spectatorship. By painstakingly manipulating and reprocessing five thousand digital frames, the artist removes the presence of the athletes on the court, leaving only a palimpsest of their hands. He centers our attention—like that of the excited fans with their exploding flashbulbs—on the gravity–defying basketball as it mysteriously, even miraculously, floats in midair.

Pfeiffer confounds the ideal of Renaissance one–point perspective by guiding our attention toward the margins of the frame: our eyes never rest as the ball is tossed this way and that. Also, he intensifies the perceptual experience by reducing the scale of the looped image. By presenting it on a miniature LCD monitor easily seen by only one viewer at a time, he transforms a dramatic public sporting event into a moment of private, almost devotional, contemplation. "The ideal of painting is when you can forget your body and have a visual experience that is really pure," Pfeiffer has observed, "[but] in sports, you cannot disembody your eye, because it is a matter of coordinating your body and your eye and your mind." Just as professional basketball players cope with sensory overload on the court, making split-second decisions, viewers of this work have their habits of perception thrown off balance.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 188.
Standard-definition video (color, silent; 2:07 min.), 5.6-inch monitor, and metal armature
6 x 7 x 36" (15.2 x 17.8 x 91.4 cm)
Gift of David Teiger
Object number
© 2024 Paul Pfeiffer
Media and Performance

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].