Sunday, 18 April 2010

Trying to civilize nature

John Baldessari's videowork ”Teaching a Plant the Alphabet” (1972) in which is basically a response to Joseph Beuys' "How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare", shows in a quite ironic manner flash cards being shown to a common houseplant. The flash cards holds the alphabet, one letter at a time, while the person pronounce the letter several times before changing to the next card. The clip underneath is a really short one (A and B), but there's no need to watch the whole thing, thus the idea is understood quite instantly.


As before discussed on the post Drawing and handwriting this is yet another attempt, or actually the quite opposite, to civilize nature with the abstract construct of language. The abstract expressionists embraced the primitive nature of monkey paintings while the plant in Baldessari's video is tried, though with the ironic tone of failure, forced into civilization by the artificial system of signs.

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