John Baldessari, Nova Scotia College, Halifax, 1971
Opening: April 1, 1971
Duration: April 1–10, 1971
Dimensions: 10 x 21.7 cm
Further Information: “I will not make any more boring art. I will not make any more boring art.” This is the sentence that, over and over, students of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) wrote onto the walls of the Mezzanine Gallery in Halifax, Canada, between April 1 and 10, 1971. They were doing so on behalf of John Baldessari, the American artist NSCAD had asked to exhibit in the gallery several months prior. Replying by letter, he wrote that he was interested by the idea of an exhibition, but refused the offer because the school lacked the budget to travel from California. Instead, he asked students to act as his representatives in the gallery, giving them precise instructions by letter:
“From ceiling to floor should be written by one or more people, one sentence under another the following statement — “I will not make any more boring art.” — At least one column of sentences should be done floor to ceiling before the exhibit opens and the writing of the sentences should continue every day if possible for the length of the exhibit.”
Baldessari sent only a single sheet of paper to the school for the exhibition, onto which he had repeatedly written the sentence by hand. The students created a lithograph of the paper, which was published by the NSCAD (one of these copies was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art). A facsimile of Baldessari’s handwriting can also be seen on the invitation card for the exhibition. After the end of the exhibition, he then made a 13-minute video that documented his own act of writing.
In his original letter, Baldessari described his idea as a punishment piece—he wanted to punish himself with a monotonous exercise, but did not see his own absence as an obstacle. Rather, he saw added value in the fact that the students would act as scapegoats, since punishment should always be instructive for others. What finally emerged was a very critical but equally humorous commentary on the pedagogy and practice of art schools. I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art illustrated the artist’s desire to break away from the structures of conventional teaching and exhibition-making.
Letter from John Baldessari to Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Mezzanine Gallery Collection, 1971, accessed on February 14, 2020 at https://nscad.cairnrepo.org/islandora/object/nscad%3A4873.
“John Baldessari: I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971”, MoMA Collection, accessed on February 14, 2020 at https://www.moma.org/collection/works/120326.
translated by SL
Image: The image of this invitation is part of the Sammlung Marzona, Kunstbibliothek – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.