QUESTIONS: John Baldessari

The following questions can be used to spark conversation before, during, and after viewing the artist's film segment. They were compiled from our Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits. We strongly encourage active viewing strategies that involve audiences in discussion in order to anticipate and set-up the ideas in the film, clarify content, or further the ideas while watching, and gives viewers the opportunity to process and re-consider their ideas after watching. Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach.


"Prima Facie: Unpleasant / Disgusted," 2005. Archival digital print on ultrasmooth fine art paper mounted on museum board, 55 1/2 x 42 1/4 inches. © John Baldessari. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

Before Viewing
How can artists guide or even control the way audiences see and experience their work?

What are the qualities or characteristics that define something as art, versus something that is not art? How and why are these definitions established?


SEGMENT: John Baldessari in "Systems"

While Viewing
Baldessari is interested in the things that people don't call art, and he wonders what he can do to change their minds. Take note of how Baldessari transforms things that are not considered art (such as found images, ideas, and texts) into art.

Baldessari says that art is about making a choice. Pause the segment on a particular image, and describe the choices Baldessari has made. Discuss how these choices contribute to your interpretation of the work.


"Model (Drawn from Life)," 2000. Color photographs with acrylic on museum board, 92 1/2 x 144 inches. © John Baldessari. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery, New York.

After Viewing
Choose a work by Baldessari, and talk about the process of looking. What images or ideas do you notice first, second, third? How does your eye travel around these images? What has Baldessari prioritized, and why? How has the artist controlled your experience of viewing?

What do you think Baldessari means when he describes his system for making art as a corral around his idea? How does Baldessari's work and working process reflect constraint as well as artistic freedom?