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The Way We Do Art Now and Other Sacred Tales

John Baldessari

1973 00:29:00 United StatesEnglishB&WMono4:31/2" open reel video


“A spoof on current art attitudes [that] stretches the definition of what can be considered art. Because the late 1960s and early 1970s were periods of innovation, using the human body as art, making process equivalent to product... [etc.], Baldessari questions that very sense of originality and exploration by taking it to its (rather mundane) limits. By taping a stick at one end, then picking it up at the other, he is both questioning and spoofing what constitutes art.” —Marcia Tucker, “John Baldessari: Pursuing the Unpredictable,” John Baldessari (New York: New Museum, 1981)

This title was in the original Castelli-Sonnabend video art collection.

This video contains the following short episodes

  • Delivering a speech to imaginary persons in different spaces in a room
  • Some words I mispronounce*
  • You tell what I do*
  • Anna ra[i]ses animals she has never seen
  • Taping a stick: lifting it from the other end*
  • No Dice (A Story)
  • Untitled [kicking bottle]
  • Talking with one knee to another
  • Examining three 8D common size 2 1/2 inch nails: how they are the same: how they are different*
  • What follows is what he liked to do best*
  • For Sylvia Plath
  • A riddle
  • Insincerely promising a cat a carrot*
  • A sentence with hidden meaning*
  • For Marcel Proust
  • Close-Up
  • Untitled [description of a stool]*
  • It is cruel to put a dog on a mirror
  • The Way We Do Art Now (The Birth of Abstract Art)

*Starred episodes are contained in the full length version of the title (28 min.) and also repeated on a 9 min. excerpt reel which is included on this DVD.

About John Baldessari

Throughout his career, John Baldessari has defied formalist categories by working in a variety of media—creating films, videotapes, prints, photographs, texts, drawings, and multiple combinations of these. In his use of media imagery, Baldessari is a pioneer "image appropriator," and as such has had a profound impact on post-modern art production. Baldessari initially studied to be an art critic at the University of California, Berkeley during the mid 1950s, but growing dissatisfied with his studies, he turned to painting. Inspired by Dada and Surrealist literary and visual ideas, he began incorporating photographs, notes, texts, and fragments of conversation into his paintings. Baldessari remains fundamentally interested in de-mystifying artistic processes, and uses video to record his performances, which function as "deconstruction experiments." These illustrative exercises target prevailing assumptions about art and artists, focusing on the perception, language, and interpretation of artistic images. These demonstrations provide an introduction to the major preoccupations of Baldessari's work, and the linguistic and aesthetic philosophies that inform it.

Born in 1931, John Baldessari studied art, literature, and art history at San Diego State College and the University of California, Berkeley. Influenced by dadaist and surrealist literary and visual ideas, he began incorporating found materials (billboard posters, photographs, film stills, snippets of conversation) into his canvases, playing off of chance relationships among otherwise discreet elements. Baldessari explains: "Everybody knows a different world, and only part of it. We communicate only by chance, as nobody knows the whole, only where overlapping takes place." Allowing pop-cultural artifacts to function as "information," as opposed to "form," Baldessari's works represented a radical departure from, and often a direct critique of, the modernist sensibility that dominated painting for decades. In 1968, Baldessari met poet and critic David Antin, who helped launch Baldessari's career, introducing him to a like-minded group of emerging conceptual artists including Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, Dan Graham, and On Kawara—all of whom would have a great influence on the development of Baldessari's work. Baldessari's videotapes, like his phototext canvases, employ strategies of disjunction (Some Words I Mispronounce, 1971), recontextualization (Baldessari Sings Lewitt, 1972), and allegory (The Way We Do Art Now and Other Sacred Tales, 1973)—pointing to the gap between perception and cognition.

See also:

John Baldessari: An Interview

John Baldessari: Some Stories