Teaching a Plant the Alphabet

  • John Baldessari, Teaching a Plant the Alphabet, 1972, single-channel video, black and white, sound; 18:40 minutes, Smithsonian American Art Museum, © 1972, John Baldessari, Museum purchase made possible by the Ford Motor Company, 2007.33.7

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
Title
Teaching a Plant the Alphabet
Artist
Date
1972
On View
Not on view.
Dimensions
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase made possible by the Ford Motor Company

Mediums Description
single-channel video, black and white, sound; 18:40 minutes
Keywords
  • Object – letter
  • Object – foliage
Object Number
2007.33.7
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

1971
single-channel video, black and white, sound; 12:45 minutes
1982
color aquatint, photo etching, soft ground and lift ground on paper
1973
single-channel video, black and white, sound; 24:04 minutes
1977
16mm film on video, color, silent; 32:53 minutes

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