April 21, 2010

John Baldessari Is Not Demonstrating Developmentally Appropriate Interaction Strategies


From Electronic Arts Intermix's description of John Baldessari's 1972 video art structuralist critique, Teaching a Plant the Alphabet:

Teaching a Plant the Alphabet is an exercise in futility, an absurdist lesson in cognition and recognition. The scenario is elementary: A small potted plant sits atop a stool. In the role of teacher, Baldessari holds up a series of children's alphabet cards in sequence, repeating each letter to the plant until he has completed the alphabet. The plant, of course, does not respond.
You know, when I first thought of posting this, it was as a joke about how much life with a kid can feel like an exercise in absurdist futility.

But then I watched a clip, and I realized Baldessari's totally doing it wrong. He's basically going, "A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A," without even pausing to let the plant respond. That's not communication, that's not teaching. And this whole, "Of course, the plant does not respond" thing just sounds like negativity and low expectations. And don't even get me started on flash cards.

Teaching a Plant the Alphabet, John Baldessari, 1972 [eai.org]


He should have stuck the plant in front of a Baby Einstein video.

I thought the point of most Baldessari's stuff was doing things "wrong?"

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