John Baldessari: Teaching a Plant the Alphabet


Leading Californian Conceptual artist John Baldessari is an American Collagist, Painter, and Photographer. He explores themes that question what art is and in the 1970’s, he abandoned painting to explore a diverse range of media. His work plays with humour and some of his later works are influenced by pop-art.

Baldessari’s 1972 work, “Teaching a Plant the Alphabet”, has been described as an “exercise in futility. An absurdist lesson in cognition and recognition.” In this video, he holds up a piece of paper with a letter of the alphabet to a common house plant. He repeats the letter aggressively and quickly (A-A-A-A-A) and after a few seconds he moves on to the next sequential letter in the alphabet.

This work may strike the viewer as illogical and foolish, but it can be explored past banal themes and irony. Baldessari performed this piece as a reaction to Joseph Beuy’s 1965 performance “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare”. Both performances cause the viewer to feel a visceral understanding of their work. The logical education task performed in an illogical way results in a greater experience for the viewer.

1 John Baldessari Teaching a Plant the Alphabet video - web

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