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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathBaldessari
I will not make any more boring Art (Baldessari, John), 1971

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of these films, the humorous excess (not «structurally» necessary) is an index of social legitimation and prestige— like Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption. Even under pressure, however, the ethos of artistic marginalization dies hard. For example, after Allan Kaprow proclaimed the artist to be «a man of the world,» he still dreamed of «merging» art and life. For Baldessari, that was missing the point. Art was already part of life. To see that, he didn’t have to look any farther than the colleges and art schools where he worked on a regular basis. School was, after all, the overarching metaphor in «I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art» (1971); the artist simply mocked his inscription into its regime.

For artists of Baldessari’s generation, professionalism was wedded to education, but divorced from technical training. After Duchamp’s edict that tools that require skill are no good, this suggests a shift in class orientation toward the more managerial style of conceptual art. If technique was a stigma, wit was a virtue. Popularly, however, artistry still meant technique—which, in turn, meant realism. Better art meant better technique. In contrast, the Abstract


Expressionists decided not only that art couldn’t be taught, but also that their kind of painting could not be reduced to skill, let alone technique. Even so, the existential confrontation between painter and canvas remained paramount. Ironically, because it mediated between skill and «unknowable» artistry, Abstract Expressionism emerged as the penultimate style in American art schools and remained so for decades. Against this, the suppression of technique and mystique informs Baldessari’s decision to work in Super-8. The format was flagrantly amateur, the medium of birthday parties and family vacations. In place of the existentialist came the hobbyist.

While technical prowess might now compromise one’s artistic standing, the new protocols of professionalism became i) a calculated indifference to the old ones, [2] ) a turn to less melodramatic subject matter and [3] ) a more detached, ironic treatment of that subject matter. Together, these represented a paradigm shift—for which Andy Warhol had been the catalyst. For Baldessari, the new sensibility meant a more nuanced, yet more matter-of-fact, look into the minutiae of everyday life. Camera in hand, he set out

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