Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Teaching a Plant the Alphabet

1972 John Baldessari Born: National City, California 1931 single-channel video, black and white, sound; 18:40 minutes Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase made possible by the Ford Motor Company © 1972, John Baldessari 2007.33.7 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

One of John Baldessari’s primary interests as a conceptual artist is to explore how images acquire meaning, and therefore to probe the boundaries of how we define art. In Teaching a Plant the Alphabet, the artist patiently gives an elementary lesson in the English alphabet to a potted banana plant. The absurdist exercise, with its futile, monotonous repetition and deadpan delivery, confronts our expectations of what art is supposed to look like. This video is also Baldessari’s response to the popularity of the academic disciplines of linguistics and semiotics that influenced many conceptual artists during the 1970s.

Watch This!: Revelations in Media Art, 2015


Object - foliage

Object - letter

media arts