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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathBaldessari
John Miller


«If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.» (John Cage)

«I like boring things. I like things to be exactly the same over and over again.» (Andy Warhol)

Once, when I talked about John Baldessari's Super-8 films with Gregor Stemmrich’s class at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, several students were quick to point out that I never mentioned how funny these films are. They were right to bring this up; humor is important in Baldessari’s work. It has a particular quality. It is more a reality check than entertainment. (Reality, of course, necessarily includes artifice.) Its skepticism makes it an oddly sober humor. Even so, it is mildly subversive as well. It sets such low—«reasonably low»—hurdles for itself, that winning the race becomes insidiously somehow beside the point. In one video, when the artist half-heartedly promises to make «no more boring art,» is the problem making art or being boring? Rather than defy the rule,


Baldessari pretends to be contrite. He writes the command over and over and, by atoning, transgresses the standing demand to transgress. He keeps writing that next time he’ll do better. But we can never trust him; each new promise breaks the rule once more.

1. From Artist to Art Making as a Hobby

Although it’s invisible (yet the product of a point of view), humor is as much as a representation to be reckoned with as any of the formal elements in these Super-8s. With deceptive modesty, it dismisses, out of hand, an Abstract Expressionist legacy of bar brawls, angst and heroic posturing. [1] Instead it admits that, from now on, American artists will be college-educated, middle-class professionals, middle class in an era of unprecedented affluence, middle class in a nation that boasts of being the most powerful in history. The new prosperity means freedom from doubt and privation. Thus, the bohemian loses his last vestiges of credibility and Artaud’s artist «suicided by society» comes to seem laughable. Middle class status is «laughable» too—because it’s blasé and self-reflexive. But that’s not exactly the stuff of whimsy. In the case

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