The Way We Do Art Now and Other Sacred Tales

1973, 28:28 min, b&w, sound

The Way We Do Art Now and Other Sacred Tales is a series of parables concerning modes of representation, language and cognition. Often conveyed through conscious misinformation, Baldessari's witty puns and jokes play off the relation of word, image and meaning; the intersection of what is heard or written, what is seen, and what is understood. For example, he shows us an image of a duffel bag and proceeds to describe, in detail, an object bearing no resemblance to a duffel bag, which is eventually revealed to be a stool. In A Sentence with Hidden Meaning, he writes the phrase, "A sentence with hidden meaning" on a legal pad, hiding the word "hidden" so that it reads, "A sentence with meaning." In The Birth of Abstract Art, Baldessari narrates an apocryphal story of a Roman artist who throws a paintbrush at his sketch of a horse in frustration at his inability to realistically depict the foam in its mouth. The result — the wet paint looks like the foam he has tried to draw — is the perfect synthesis of reality and representation. Baldessari observes dryly that "This is probably the birth of abstract art." While telling the story, he repeatedly launches a wet sponge at a horse drawn on a blackboard.