Early Video Art, Educational Television, and the Positivity of Practice
In an essay examining the state of art education in 1993, the Belgian art critic thierry de duve wrote that an emphasis on “practice” had replaced “medium” in art schools.1 The history of the art school, he claimed, developed in three major phases: first, the traditional academy, characterized by imitating the master artists; second, the Bauhaus model, which replaced imitation with invention and emphasized medium and form; and a third, post-Bauhaus paradigm according to which attitude replaced form, and practice replaced medium. Practice here refers to the active decentering of aesthetic experience, a turning instead to acts of institutionally situated and embodied cognition as artists began to engage with language, process, performance, and other conceptual gestures. He calls this emphasis on practice and attitude a “crisis of invention,” a “negative symptom of a historical transition whose positivity is not clear yet.”2 Today, critics such as blake stimson and lane relyea make similar arguments about the proliferation of DIY aesthetics and [End Page 101] cultural politics more generally.3 The present article starts with a question for de duve, twenty-five years later, and a rejoinder to others: might we see practice as something more than a negative symptom? An emphasis on practice (as situated knowledge) and the abandonment of the studio—as undertaken by conceptualized art schools such as the California Institute of the Arts in the early 1970s—was perhaps an epiphenomenon of a historical shift in global social structures and modes of production (i.e., a negative symptom as de duve calls it). But the persistence of the term also presents an opportunity now to reflect on “practice” in light of some temporal distance. Doing so not only suggests a shared project across education and aesthetics but also points toward the socially transformative, and not merely oppositional, work of practice.
This article looks at early video art as the exemplary medium for the kind of practice de Duve problematizes as a crisis of invention. I am mostly concerned here with early video art of the 1970s that built on the insights of conceptual art, particularly to the extent that these artists took up motifs of education in their work. Dealing with education in postconceptual practice meant thinking about the relationship between aesthetic experience and epistemology, the new institutional contexts opened up by the postwar university, or how one taught new modes of practice as they turned away from formal concerns. In keeping with recent scholarship on the history of video art, this is also a matter of understanding that video art in the 1970s was engaged with television—formally, technologically, and politically. For instance, David Joselit and William Kaizen both treat the history of video art and television as overlapping territories.4 Kaizen in particular argues for a more accurate understanding of how the political, televisual, and artistic avant-gardes overlapped. At the same time, Kaizen’s scholarship is just the latest examination of how artists worked “up against” the qualities of the medium, to use his phrase.5 Others, such as Yvonne Spielmann and Chris Meigh-Andrews, have examined video in the context of television even more narrowly, hewing toward a technology-oriented narrative and a residual attitude of resistance toward art world institutions.6 I follow Marita Sturken, however, in looking at how artists used video among other tools for making art, not necessarily for the medium’s inherent qualities. At the same time, finding common cause with Joselit and Kaizen, I specifically [End Page 102] interrogate the shared strategies deployed in the realm of public, educational television. I am proposing here that educational television is yet another genre and site of this formal and institutional engagement. I explore these links below by examining the educational research done at the Children’s Television Workshop— producers ofSesame Street—and the modes of practice they held in common with conceptual video art.
Discussing education comes with certain challenges; however, it provides a significant testing ground for critical, social, and aesthetic notions of practice insofar as education seeks cognitive transformation through situated knowledge. Educational structures are often critiqued for being overly disciplinarian and ideological in nature, but they nonetheless offer a way to think about social transformation at the level of individual subjectivity and consciousness.7 Furthermore, as I explore here, looking at educational modes of address in early video art indicates how art and education have overlapped in other places beyond the art school. We can look to these overlaps to understand the transformative potential of practice and its construction of consciousness. My examples might be called “postconceptual art,” as Peter Osborne has defined that term, positing a kind of art concerned with thinking through, sorting ideas, and generally treating the intellectual puzzle of art as integral to the aesthetic experience.8 In the case of early video art, these acts of sorting, puzzling, and thinking through on the part of artists, producers, and viewers are located in a formal, technological, and institutional context of television. In other words, they are situated practices. My understanding of practice draws Osborne’s postconceptualism together with the notion of situated practice from social anthropology, which suggests that knowledge is embedded in the learning situation and is not so easily decontextualized.9 These findings are also borne out in the work of the Children’s Television Workshop, which I examine below alongside the work of Martha Rosler, John Baldessari, and William Wegman. Far from representing a surrender to the alienation and reification of the culture and consciousness industries, early postconceptual video art sought to engage television through varied and dialogic practices—modes of practice that overlapped and found common cause with educational television insofar as they unite cognition and consciousness in situated acts of thinking, sorting, puzzling, and acquiring new concepts.
This essay is concerned, then, with the overlapping aesthetic and educational sites of practice in U.S. American video art and television since the 1970s. At [End Page 103] this intersection, video and television worked on consciousness and subjectivity through practice, supplementing ideology critique with cognitive transformation. Works like John Baldessari’s Teaching a Plant the Alphabet (1972) have thematized education and poked fun at its tropes, and Baldessari has said or written on a number of occasions that art is not teachable.10 His early works even take up the theme of art instruction’s futility. At the same time, however, he has been a dedicated art educator from the beginning of his career. Baldessari’s turn toward video art engages the cognitive and social work of education while circumnavigating the typical disciplinary rules associated with schooling. This is comparable to the work of the Children’s Television Workshop, who turned to television to address the shortcomings of educational institutions. The legend of Baldessari includes his move from the University of California San Diego to the newly established CalArts, where he taught a “post-studio” class in 1971. Baldessari’s brand of West Coast conceptualism has also been associated with the intermingling of film, video, and other time-based art forms—inspiring the Pictures Generation, for instance, and using various lens-based media to document performance. For some artists like Baldessari, video was simply a new tool for making conceptual and performance art. For other artists of the 1970s, video was part of this larger tool called television. For the New York-based artist Martha Rosler, whose strategies I explore in the next section, video was part of the envelope of ideology. Based in New York for most of her career, with the exception of several years spent on the West Coast during the 1970s, Rosler is an artist whose work is equally known for its engagement with conceptual photography, social documentary, and institutional critique. For Rosler, television was ruled by the consciousness industry, a term put forward by the German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger to denote the commodification of mass media and education alike; but Rosler, among others, saw how video art could be used to infiltrate this sphere of public consciousness.11 As I discuss in the final section of this essay, the artist William Wegman likewise experiments, quite playfully, with such infiltrations, not only in his early work from the 1970s but also in a number of segments produced for Sesame Street starting in 1989. These segments prove useful in hindsight for understanding the positivity of postconceptual video art practice and educational television. As these two spheres of televisual practice come together, it is clear that the varied and dialogical modes of practice they deploy unite the educational and the aesthetic, reimagining the critical capacity of art as a transformation of consciousness. [End Page 104]
VIDEO ART IN THE (REARVIEW) MIRROR: MARTHA ROSLER
As museum and galleries began to show video art in the late 1960s, it wasn’t long before critics took up the new medium as an object of formalist treatment. In the debut issue of October, Rosalind Krauss’s 1976 article, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” characterizes most video art as a “double repression” that buries “consciousness of temporality and of separation between subject and object.”12 While Krauss identifies the work that video art does at the level of consciousness, I read this situation as a productive construction rather than a repression. Krauss carefully enumerates some exceptions to video art’s repression of consciousness: Richard Serra and Nancy Holt’s Boomerang (1974), which comments on the narcissistic situation of video without enacting it directly; Joan Jonas’s Vertical Roll (1972), which is an assault on the medium itself through the degradation of video tape; and the work of Peter Campus, which extends the concerns of painting and minimalist sculpture. She discusses the work of Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, and Lynda Benglis, on the other hand, as enacting a repressed consciousness of history and the objective conditions of the medium, revealing that video art is nothing more than a “weightless fall through the suspended space of narcissism.”13 Krauss doesn’t necessarily mean this in a pejorative sense, however, since these works have come about in a context where mass media are powerful structuring devices in both the art world and the broader culture. However, she does suggest that video itself is an instrument that produces narcissism as a state of consciousness (or a lack thereof, in regard to history and objectivity). Krauss suggests, in short, that video and television on the whole exist in a state of false consciousness. Therefore, to explore the medium itself is to explore the limits of that consciousness. With this claim, she effectively resolves an emerging postmodernism within a Greenbergian modernist framework, focusing, in this case, not on the status of the art object or the mode of studio production but on the production of subjectivity as the outer limit of the medium’s capability.
Krauss’s foundational article not only illustrates how the art world embraced the medium of video but also offers an early attempt to understand what was happening with art that was in the process of divesting its semantic resources from matters of form, medium, and studio production—what de Duve pinpointed as the emergence of practice. Much as de Duve criticizes art education for its “symptomatic” crisis of invention, Krauss founds the critical enterprise of [End Page 105] October magazine on the premise that video art is destined to be bound up in the production of subjectivity by the culture industry. Video art and art education are implicitly bound together in their mutual subservience to capitalist ideology. However, I am proposing that the postconceptual and post-studio modes— epitomized by Nauman, Acconci, and Benglis in Krauss’s article, but generalized to a whole set of practices engaged with video— participated in and played with capitalist forms of valorization that encroached not only upon the way objects were produced and sold but also on our conceptualization of those objects, our ideas about them, and the way those ideas come into relation with others.14 Krauss establishes the stakes of these new modes of practice as no less than the construction of subjectivity and consciousness. Revisiting postconceptual video art today involves recognizing the degree to which these modes of practice prompt changes in consciousness, construed here as cognitive procedures and situated knowledge. Although these two ways of thinking about consciousness—cognitive and embodied—are often seen as competing, we would benefit, so I claim, from holding these theoretical constructions of thinking, learning, and knowledge in productive tension.
Writing ten years after Krauss, Martha Rosler describes video at a crossroads between the high and low as well as the past and the future insofar as video was a new medium that could carry on the tradition of social documentary photography.15 The work of postconceptual video practice engages primarily with television as a speech genre within popular culture, a vernacular form of art and culture, more so than the medium’s technological or formal qualities. Video cannot escape the fact that it is the “means of mass-culture,” although its medium is the everyday relationships on which ideology plays.16 The challenge, Rosler states, “is how to represent the actual contents of everyday life without reproducing the sleek trivialities and partial truths demanded by the art system and the mass media alike.”17 With this challenge to herself and others, Rosler pushes a reinvigorated vernacular form of art that engages popular media in the project of [End Page 106] reconfiguring social consciousness. The vernacular reconnects with the popular cultural forms that occupied Rosler’s thinking, specifically photography. Her work and writing on photography critiqued documentary’s claim to adequately represent while insisting on the necessity that it try and do so. As Rosler writes, “[D]ocumentary, whose obituary some may think I’ve written? If the reception of documentary is problematic, all the more reason to teach it as an expanded and critically informed practice, with a careful look at its history.”18 In Rosler’s practice, video inherits the history of photography and its accompanying crisis of representation, but it stands to redeem itself from the problems of documentary as a popular cultural form within a shrinking public sphere.
Notably, education enters the scene as Rosler’s comments reveal an attempt to do more than critique photographic representation but to actually transform the documentary project through expanded social practice. Rosler shoulders a history of photography that reaches back to the documentary photographers of the 1930s, eliding the transplant of European avant-garde concerns. Video, with its link to classic problems of representation and its cooption by the market, was not the social documentary form that Rosler would develop most fully, but it should be understood within a movement toward socially engaged and pedagogic forms that seek to transform consciousness through engaging with vernacular genres. Completed within a year of her photo piece, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974/1975), was Rosler’s most well-known work in video, Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) (Fig. 1). The latter work, however, differs in its treatment of representational and semantic systems. Rather than critique the inadequacy of television’s ability to represent the truth, Rosler focuses on the vernacular use of the medium to engage public consciousness dialectically, pairing recognizable television formats with amateurish or parodic performance. Crudeness marks the amateurish qualities of the title that leads us into the work. The setting at a butcher block table tells us the piece is modeled on a cooking show, and yet “Semiotics of the Kitchen” is scrawled awkwardly on a chalkboard, the kind one might have hung in the kitchen for daily reminders or shopping lists. The table is devoid of any actual food, and instead an assemblage of utensils and dishes in no particular arrangement take up the useable space. No special attention seems to be given to the placement of these objects, which get picked up and used in the pantomime of cooking gestures. At some point, the logic of the piece becomes clear, as Rosler, performing for the camera, says the name of each item in alphabetical order: “Apron. Bowl. Chopper.” If cooking shows have [End Page 107] something in common with educational television, the piece makes this analogy through its structuring device, the alphabet, as well as the chalkboard and the simple declarative tone that comes with naming each item. Moreover, taking the format of both an educational program and cooking show, but running it over with an obviously homemade quality, the piece works not only because of Rosler’s deadpan gestures but also because of its display of the television genres’ constituent parts: the faux-domestic setting, direct address to the camera, and, not least of all, the alphabet as part of the piece’s explicit content. Semiotics of the Kitchen works because of this vernacular crudeness, the way it responds to the situation of American television in the 1970s. In other words, the piece speaks not only to its named subject matter, the construction of gendered domesticity through semiotic systems, but also to the construction of public consciousness through popular media.
For her 1977 Whitney exhibition, part of the New American Filmmakers series, Rosler produced a pamphlet that began, “Where do ideas come from? All the myths of everyday life stitched together form a seamless envelope of ideology, the false account of everything thinkable.”19 She goes on to describe her videos as “decoys,” or “entities that engage in a natural dialectic with TV itself.”20 Semiotics of the Kitchen aims to make the relationship between consciousness [End Page 108] and institutionalized mediums such as television explicit. For Rosler, the video medium does not carry any inherent strategic capability, technological or otherwise, but rather offers a point of entry into the expanding hegemony of slick commercial television that, according to the artist, supplants independent thought and prevents closer scrutiny of the seemingly natural and everyday. Rosler privileges video in her art precisely because it takes part in the institutional domain of television. Once embedded in the “envelope” of ideological reproduction, video has “little difficulty in lending itself to the kind of ‘crude thinking,’ as [Berthold] Brecht used this phrase, that seems necessary to penetrate the waking daydreams that hold us in thrall.”21 Often celebrated is the way in which Semiotics demonstrates the crassness of the dominant ideological formations around gender through gestures that seem to, at alternating moments, mock, exaggerate, and attack the mundane life expected of women.22 That is, the piece shows us the way television, alongside conceptual systems such as language, constructs and naturalizes devalued roles for women. More centrally to my claims in this essay, Semiotics of the Kitchen not only discloses oppressive ideological constructs but also inserts itself into the constitutive language of ideology itself, practicing ways to construct oneself in interaction with an apparatus, television, that is both social and technological. Rosler’s play with the genre conventions of educational and home cooking shows demonstrates the way one might borrow, combine, and make use of popular vernacular imagery and speech, putting them together in ways that transform as much as they critique the construction of consciousness in the public sphere. The modes of practice deployed in spinning these genres together would come to unite the work of postconceptual video art and educational television as it was developed through programming like that of the Children’s Television Workshop in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
PRACTICE AND EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION: THE CHILDREN’S TELEVISION WORKSHOP
The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) was started with seven million dollars in funds from the Carnegie Corporation, the U.S. Office of Education, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, based on an initial study in 1966 by the American television producer Joan Ganz Cooney. The initial study surveyed a number of educators, cognitive psychologists, filmmakers, and television producers to figure out how to make television an entertaining as well as educational medium.23 The report in 1966 led to the establishment of the CTW and [End Page 109] Sesame Street in 1968 in partnership with Lloyd Morrisett, an executive at the Carnegie Corporation. The educational psychologist Gerald S. Lesser joined the project early on with the explicit mission to produce a program that would be built around formative and summative research, that is, with content based on what worked in early tests and ongoing assessments of learning outcomes once the programs aired in 1969. Initially, content was based around language skills, mathematical concepts, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. This led to the recognizable curriculum of Sesame Street programs that focused on the building blocks of learning, from letters and numbers to social and behavioral roles. In Lesser’s account, there was an awareness among the group that television had failed to live up to its potential as an educational medium, and that television was clearly contributing to the “dehumanizing technological orientation of our society.”24 Other researchers were brought in to maximize the efficacy of television as a tool for delivering educational content, especially for underprivileged youth of color and those without access to preschool or kindergarten. Television also offered an opportunity to skirt some of the disciplinary overkill of formal schooling. Television was seen as an alternative to the educational institution, but it came with its own unique set of problems. Namely, it seemed to be a mechanism of distraction through entertainment more than a transformative educational experience. The educational scholar Edward L. Palmer worked on solving this problem, and he did so with a device he called “the distractor.”25 Essentially, the distractor was a competing program of images played side by side with test segments from the Sesame Street program. This method was used to measure when and how often children abandoned the educational programming for the “distracting” alternative. By testing segments as they were developed, the CTW stumbled upon a format for Sesame Street that would deliver coherent lessons and hold children’s attention, making the most of a television format in which shared viewing experiences, attended to voluntarily, could provide a way to work through conceptual material such as language fundamentals, mathematics, reasoning, and eventually affective content. The solutions they found for solving the unique problems of the televisual medium as an educational tool share with postconceptual video a tendency toward modes of working with the television technology and its genres that supplement critique with transformative strategies.
In other words, the CTW, who worked pragmatically through their research to negotiate the experiences of viewers by varying or interleaving educational content, converged historically and formally—that is, in terms of television and [End Page 110] video as a medium, institution, and vernacular genre—with the postconceptual video practices that artists adopted. In stumbling upon a mode of cultural practice, the CTW and postconceptual video art took up the institutional site of television and adapted its vernacular genres toward a transformation of consciousness. For the CTW, this was aimed at transforming the cognitive abilities of preschoolers as well as the cultural imaginary of American life in the post-civil rights era. The first season of Sesame Street included curricular goals designed to teach young learners about various family roles, conceptions of self and other, cooperation and fair play, as well as letters of the alphabet and numbers.
In John Baldessari’s Teaching a Plant the Alphabet, a hand reaches out holding a letter of the alphabet and a voice says the letter, “A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a” as if it is a meditative chant. Baldessari’s video goes on for nearly twenty minutes and never misses a monotonous, somniferous beat. A piece like Baldessari’s is most easily read as a critique of institutional strictures, even as it works through them to educate and transform the outlook of viewers. As witnesses to Baldessari’s educational demonstration, we may be entertained by the joke contained in the futile attempt to educate a plant, which clearly cannot learn the alphabet. We may relate this experience to our own school days—bored stiff by the classroom situation—and reflect on the futility of rote learning. Education and instruction as a theme suggests this reading is reasonable; however, plants as a recurring motif in Baldessari’s work suggest a second reading. In a text piece Baldessari wrote titled Cal Arts Post Studio Art: Class Assignments, (optional), (1970) one entry reads, “How can plants be used in art? Problem becomes how can we really get people to look freshly at plants as if they’ve never noticed them before.”26 This is fundamentally an educational role for the artist: to change the way people see the world. Just as Baldessari’s piece couples a critique of mass (educational) culture with transformative aims, it is important to emphasize that the CTW’s empirical research on children’s cognitive abilities was coupled with a critique of mass culture in their denigration of television as “dehumanizing.” In both cases, this took the form of working in, on, and through the video medium as an answer to the failure of television and educational institutions to adequately transform the consciousness of audiences, viewers, and young learners. But what does it really mean to transform consciousness, or change the way people see the world?
Educational research at the CTW set its own criteria for assessing how television transforms consciousness (as declarative and procedural knowledge, as well [End Page 111] as behavior), and how this consciousness is carried forward from the viewing context to future situations. One of the key insights of the Workshop’s research suggested that students failed to transfer the curriculum to new situations the more tightly educational content was bound up with a specific context or delivery mechanism.27 That is, whereas in most learning situations students are too fixated on the surface characteristics of a presentation to sufficiently extract its conceptual content and apply it elsewhere, methods of presentation at the CTW involved abstracting conceptual models and showing them across numerous variations. This is evident in Sesame Street’s constantly changing segments, deploying a range of visual genres to present the same curricular material. In any single episode, viewers are sure to find the full range of presentation formats, from television studio sequences with celebrities directly addressing the camera, to animated sequences, to films by independent producers commissioned specifically for the show. Notably, a sequence by the New York-based animators John and Faith Hubley, known as much for their commercial work as their independent shorts featuring their own children, appears on the first episode aired in 1969. While the show might be maligned for promoting short attention spans, constantly switching from one style or genre to the next was an effective way to engage with and through the work that television does, an approach used by the CTW to overcome the difficulty of both holding children’s attention and facilitating their comprehension.28
Interleaving content also accompanied the variation in genre, where a single episode of the program might jump between types of content: from letters, to numbers, to relational concepts. Moreover, curricular content is carried over and spread out across several episodes. After applying their method of varied practice to basic content like letters and numbers, the CTW began to incorporate other concepts that would be relevant to the study of natural science. For example, in an attempt to teach young learners about the fundamental characteristics of organic life, Sesame Street added several segments that focus on the question, “What is alive?” In one instance, we see the actor Robin Williams, brightly dressed facing the camera against a pink background. The segment, aired in 1990, lasts no more than two minutes but lays out three criteria: an object is alive if it breathes, eats, and grows. Williams’s deadpan, though more elaborately scripted, could easily be mistaken for early video art. The table he stands behind resembles the one in Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen, and he talks to his shoe like Baldessari’s plant. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that in the same [End Page 112] episode a segment by William Wegman uses his pet Weimaraner to demonstrate the number three. Next, we see the character Big Bird work out which objects are alive on the familiar street setting that gives the show its name. Other segments appearing in the same episode mix up the science fundamentals with the familiar curriculum (letters, numbers, and relational concepts), demonstrating not only the variation in style or genre but also a range of ways to sort, categorize, or otherwise understand the world through abstract thought. It is this type of varied, interleaved yet serialized sorting of various abstract concepts that made the developing format of Sesame Street an ideal place for the work of Wegman, which I discuss further below.
Although no overarching theory led to the work at the CTW, scholar and media consultant Shalom Fisch has proposed a model for thinking about the efficacy of educational television developed at the CTW.29 Fisch’s model involves paying attention to the distance between educational and narrative content, a guiding principle of the Workshop going back to Cooney’s initial report.30 Briefly, the more interconnected educational content is to the narrative or entertaining parts of a TV program, the more likely viewers are to comprehend the content. In an obvious parallel, we might turn to Theodor Adorno, whose writing on television distinguishes between the hidden and the overt message, introducing a multilayered structure that explains the way television programs “handle” the audience.31 As opposed to the kind of cognitive or behavioral psychology taken for granted by the CTW, Adorno’s psychoanalytic framework reminds us that there is more at stake than measuring the behavior induced by television. For instance, in an episode of Sesame Street we might see not only the overt content designed to teach the letters of the alphabet but also the more subtle messages or meanings imbued in the depictions of family life in an urban community. Acknowledging the competing cognitive processes provoked by [End Page 113] television resonates strongly with a work like Semiotics of the Kitchen, which parodies ideological gender formations on top of the given structure of the alphabet. As Amy Villarejo has noted, television depictions present an opportunity to identify and negotiate one’s place among a set of ideologically coded social types.32 Ultimately, the polarity that Adorno points out between overt and hidden messages poses a problem for the CTW’s attempt to shorten the distance between content that is pleasurable and content that is educational: the educational model implies further obfuscating the layers of meaning in any given television program. In other words, Adorno’s assessment does not allow for the possibility that television could be the bearer of any knowledge or truth content other than the instrumental kind associated with a dominating impulse of modernity and capitalism. For this reason, Adornian scholars such as Villarejo have had to find ways to reconcile Adorno’s particularly dire outlook regarding film and television with programs that otherwise run up against the logics of the culture industry. Varied practice in both Sesame Street and postconceptual video art are well suited to attend to this particular problem, especially when extended through models that are less pessimistic about the transformation of consciousness.
In a discussion of vernacular genres, we might forge a connection between the kind of practice shown to be effective in education and the work of Mikhail Bakhtin’s circle, a major source for theorizing the vernacular and everyday speech.33 Bakhtin’s work on speech genres, discourse, and the polyphonic novel theorizes a burgeoning poetics within prose writing.34 Establishing a kind of continuum for all utterances, including those written down, Bakhtin explores the way art forms like the novel (secondary genres) developed from more quotidian speech (primary genres). The novel emerges as a polyphonic art form when it begins to organize these different genres into a whole. Sometimes the different voices or genres of speech exist simultaneously in one utterance, what Bakhtin calls “double-voiced discourse,” while other times one genre is incorporated into another, such as when a novel contains other literary genres or vernacular speech.35
Bakhtin’s emphasis on the social construction of consciousness through polyphonic discourse helps, in turn, to reframe some of the problems of educational television taken up by the Children’s Television Workshop. For instance, a major issue in their work concerned the question of whether viewers of the program [End Page 114] are able to transfer the curricular content to new situations and contexts. Their work found that, where declarative and procedural knowledge is buried in overly formal and discrete forms, young learners failed to transfer the educational content to new situations. While scholars like Fisch might assess the success of Sesame Street one way—according to the criteria of “transfer”—the social anthropologist Jean Lave, among others, questions the appropriateness of focusing on transfer at all, proposing instead a model of thinking about knowledge as situated practice. Lave suggests a “decentered view” of learning, “in which learning is recognized as a social phenomenon constituted in the experienced, lived-in world, through legitimate peripheral participation in ongoing social practice.”36 In other words, Lave emphasizes the embeddedness of knowledge in the learning situation, arguing that models focused on transfer treat knowledge as an entirely cognitive affair. An insightful point, it resembles Osborne’s assessment that conceptual artists were destined to fail in their attempt to dematerialize visual art. Osborne qualifies “art’s necessary conceptuality” thus: “Art is constituted by concepts, their relations and their instantiation in practices of discrimination: art/non-art.”37 This does not, however, mean that art operates in the realm of pure abstractions. I would emphasize that postconceptual video art demonstrates how, despite the persistent association between conceptual art and dematerialization, in fact, Osborne’s “practices of discrimination” are situated in their formal and institutional contexts. A work like Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen relies on both dialogic and situated practice. Instead of simply seeing the ideological construction of gender, Semiotics of the Kitchen inserts itself into the practice of ideological formation by engaging with the vernacular form of the cooking or educational television shows. If what Osborne says of conceptualism could be extended to educational television, the problems associated with transfer give shape to a dialectic that holds the conceptual and situated forms of knowledge in tension. Rather than reduce the debate on transfer to binary oppositions, synthesizing situated and varied practice helps us understand learning as both a cognitive and socially embedded process. What emerges is a philosophy of dialogic practice in which consciousness constitutes itself in the phenomenal spaces between self and other. In other [End Page 115] words, we might read Rosler’s gestures in the kitchen as a double-voiced discourse that brings a form of consciousness to the surface by oscillating between multiple subject positions. This form of consciousness is not only dialogic, it is socially embedded and situated—in the sense that it inheres in the learning situation, an interaction with television. My reading of postconceptual video art alongside educational television proceeds from the Bakhtinian premise that the polyphonic combination of voices, discourses, ways of speaking, and modes of viewing comprises a more effective way to understand them than the model of ideological or institutional critique alone; however, I also seek to underscore the insight that conceptual knowledge is necessarily embodied and situated in some context—be it social, institutional, technological, or otherwise—even when this insight appears to contradict the “necessary conceptuality” that unites art and consciousness.
WILLIAM WEGMAN AND THE POSITIVITY OF PRACTICE
In 1987, the Children’s Television Workshop invited William Wegman to produce a series of segments with his pet Weimaraner. Since that time, Wegman has produced several children’s books in addition to his work for Sesame Street, contributing to his wholesome image; but his journey to broadcast television began with late-night comedy sketch shows and the deadpan humor of television comedians. In 1970, after teaching for two years in Madison, Wisconsin, Wegman moved to California where his conceptually oriented work in photography and video found traction. His early work is often understood in relation to West Coast Conceptualism—alongside artists such as Ed Ruscha, Allen Ruppersberg, or Baldessari—while his most popular work for television featuring Weimaraner dogs tends to be left out of critical discussions of conceptual and postconceptual video art, presumably for the way it veers on kitsch and flirts with commercialism. Characterized by wit and playful humor, Wegman’s work is perhaps difficult to conceive as a socially transformative practice; however, his engagement with popular forms of media should be read as part of a larger project, born in the 1970s, to engage the vernacular and situated nature of television.
His videos from 1970 to 1977, done on half-inch or three-quarter-inch video tape, come in short bursts ranging from twelve seconds to two-and-half minutes (with a couple of longer exceptions). Organized together as twenty- to thirty-minute reels, they appear like packaged programs ready to fit within the [End Page 116] typical TV time slot. Sometimes these videos exploit the way a camera frames action onscreen, while leaving other actions just beyond view. Such is the case in videos where sounds offscreen are made to appear as if they are coming from the action onscreen, to comedic effect. For example, in Growling (1973), Wegman makes contorted faces at the camera, pretending to produce the low, angry noise presumably coming from an animal offscreen. Sometimes formal maneuvers take precedence, where the limits of the camera’s ability—to display variations in tone, for instance—are exploited. In one example, a ball is dropped from above and bounces expectedly until it comes to rest and casts an oblong shadow on the floor; then, another object is dropped, but this time it is a cut-out piece of dark paper that resembles the shadow’s shape, flailing in the air for a moment before plopping down next to the other (real) shadow. In these moments of formal experimentation, the videos display visual and linguistic jokes that play with viewer expectations. These expectations are often brought about by the occasion of a video camera, whether this is storytelling in works like Stick and Tooth (1973), advertising in works like Product (1972), or the visual tricks described above in Shadows (1970) (Fig. 2). Before his segments for Sesame Street began appearing in the late 1980s, the early video work of Wegman, like those
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of Baldessari and Rosler, also made reference to the schoolhouse from time to time. In an early piece titled Spelling Lesson (1974), we see Wegman explaining to the dog his many spelling mistakes (Fig. 3). The dog, looking utterly perplexed but intrigued every time Wegman says the word “beach,” appears to acknowledge the meaning of this lesson as they both face one another across a table. More than merely referencing education, however, Wegman’s work from 1970 to 1977 experiments with the vernacular language of video, the situation of television, and the way those come together through educational and transformative practice. This work would eventually lead to his crossover success on broadcast television and an apt convergence with the work of the Children’s Television Workshop.
The key to Wegman’s popular appeal is often (and too easily) attributed to his dog Man Ray. At some point in the trajectory of Wegman’s early pieces, [End Page 118] camera tricks are combined with dog tricks, where Man Ray the dog is being manipulated—just as the camera and the viewer are being manipulated—in the service of Wegman’s explorations. In Milk/Floor (1970), we see Wegman crawling backward on hands and knees, spitting some milk in a trail receding into the background. Wegman’s crawling body finally turns a corner and disappears out of sight, only to be immediately replaced by Man Ray, who laps up the milk trail in reverse, ending with a full screen shot of canine corporeality. In other works, such as Dr. Joke (1976–1977), Wegman attempts to utilize the dog’s training to comedic effect. The comedy, however, comes in the breakdown of the planned sequence. In these scenes of quasi-scripted play, I am struck by the way Wegman’s reels show a subject, Wegman’s onscreen persona, constructed in various situations and through various modes of engagement with the television vernacular. The dialogic nature of Wegman’s work is located in the construction of the self- representing artist in interaction with a medium and mode of public practice— not just with his dog. For the most part, we see Wegman in a studio or a home interacting with a camera but also trying on the different speech genres of television. As Wegman stands before an odd-looking, unidentifiable object in Product, describing its unique qualities, we understand that among the other stories and visual puns this must be the commercial break (Fig. 4). After another witty piece, we see a rather straightforward shot of Wegman lying on the floor holding a treat in his mouth as Man Ray arrives on the scene and tries to wrest it away, successfully. Following this, we see a list of names onscreen as Wegman’s voice, pretending to be two people engaged in dialogue, have a conversation about the names on this seemingly arbitrary list. In this way, it is clear that Wegman’s work demonstrates the kind of varied practice that helps facilitate the transfer of knowledge from one situation to another. We see many examples of more or less the same set of things in Wegman’s studio: a man, pretending to be on television, tells stories with objects, with animals, and with himself (often playing both voices). Each video contains a kind of lesson, communicating concepts like the words Wegman teaches Man Ray (e.g., “beach”) or the viewing behaviors he teaches his audience. Although we can read each piece as a demonstration of an abstract idea, played out in variations and mixed in [End Page 119]
with others, we are also obliged to understand each piece as contingent, an irreducible event occasioned by the viewing situation. Instead of passively allowing television to handle its viewers—as the Frankfurt School critique of commercial television presumes, and which October critics such as Krauss and de Duve attributed to video art in turn—these segments use polyphony, varied practice, and the embodied nature of viewing to demonstrate how one might handle television in return.
Craig Owens has written of these works that Wegman’s failure to manipulate poor Man Ray provokes the recognition of difference, where Man Ray’s presence functions as a kind of antidote to the attempt at domination.38 Owens’s reading identifies the political stakes of Wegman’s work in the way it induces viewers to deal with multiple subject positions. Owens even puts this in terms of narcissism, linking back to Krauss’s analysis of Acconci and others, where Wegman’s work in video appears as a successful breach of that problematic free fall through false consciousness that Krauss identified as an essential quality of the medium. Instead, Man Ray forces an otherwise narcissistic ego to come [End Page 120] to terms with the nonidentity of self and other. Using Bakhtin as a theoretical force that helps draw out the political implications of comedy and the rhetorical situation of the onscreen joke, Owens focuses on parody in Wegman’s works and the way that parody implies a dialogic interaction between two languages, texts, or speaking subjects. If we laugh at Wegman’s failed attempts to train his dog, we celebrate the upheaval of authoritarianism and class culture. In contrast to Owens, however, I would go further in arguing that Wegman’s works demonstrate a situated practice in response to the mechanisms of power. The presence of Man Ray, as well as repeated references to the onscreen personas of Bill and Gayle, show us an intentionally constructed life in response to a changing configuration of public and private. Admittedly, this is a life of white, male heteronormativity, but it is not particularly normative or normalizing. In one segment, we see a cup on the studio floor. An offscreen voice—Wegman’s— shouts, “Hey Bill, where are ya?,” and a second voice—still Wegman’s though this time manipulated as if through a paper tube—responds, “I’m in the cup!” Wegman often appears on screen as someone on the verge of madness, locked in the studio to explore the parameters of a shrinking and sequestered world outside of civilization. Here, Bakhtin’s carnivalesque combines with Foucault’s ship of fools. With this kind of play on both sides of the camera, it is easy to see the way video would be taken up in later decades by queer artists like Sadie Benning, George Kuchar, Cheryl Dunye, and others to transform a private self into a publicly available one (with the attendant rights and recognition). While those practices speak to another moment, one further removed from the public space of television, home video then and online video today teach us to construct a self in interaction with others and to deal with a world in which our designs on everyday life are often frustrated.
As I have described, these early videos immediately resembled the educational or instructional genre and, furthermore, engaged the situational nature of both vernacular speech and television. It is no wonder that in 1987 Wegman received an invitation to produce a number of segments for Sesame Street. In addition to the lovable dogs, Wegman’s early videos speak the language of educational television that the Children’s Television Workshop consciously pioneered. In interviews, Wegman often describes how, while interacting with Man Ray in the studio, he began talking to the dog, training him and giving him instructions so as to include him in the art-making process. After moving from California to [End Page 121] New York in 1972, Wegman continued to create videos as well as photographs with Man Ray. His works were sold in New York through the Sonnabend Gallery—one of the first to sell videotapes—but Wegman also started looking for outlets beyond the gallery. Television was for Wegman what the open spaces of the American West were for Land artists such as Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, or Michael Heizer. Instead of pursuing site-specific installations, we might think of Wegman’s videos as situation-specific, situated in the spaces of television. He first found crossover success when his videos with Man Ray were aired on Saturday Night Live, the comedy variety show that began airing on NBC in 1975. Wegman had begun socializing with the cast of SNL, and had long admired the comedic work of Bob and Ray (Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding), whose work for television inspired the style of SNL’s satire. In the 1980s, Wegman also appeared on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman. By the time Wegman received an invitation from Sesame Street producer Arlene Sherman, his reputation was established as both a fine and popular artist. Already in 1982, The Village Voice had named Man Ray “Man of the Year.” The most elaborate of his works to appear on SNL was a piece Wegman produced called Dog Baseball (1986), whose apparent wholesomeness, it is easy to imagine, could play just as well for late-night audiences as it could for children.
Wegman’s segments for Sesame Street, produced from 1989 to 1995, demonstrate various concepts like numbers, letters, and spatial arrangements (on, off, near, far) as well as nursery rhymes and different “people in your neighborhood” (the mechanic, the waiter, the hairdresser, or the house painter). In the first set produced for the show, Wegman’s jokes are replaced by simple concepts, but much of the situation familiar from earlier videos remains the same. Wegman narrates whatever concept the segment is overtly meant to demonstrate (e.g., the number three), and Fay Ray (Man Ray’s successor) sometimes complies or else looks on quizzically as editing and video trickery are used to complete the piece (in some instances, for example, the tape is played in reverse). One can imagine that the dogs do a great job of holding the attention of young children, while at the same time carrying out the curriculum. Of less concern here is how well the overt or intended content is conveyed, but it is worth noting what these segments tell us about the ideological content in Wegman’s larger body of work, the way they make certain roles and social types available for taking [End Page 122] up or not. The jokes and visual puns of his earlier work are replaced now with the demonstration of letters and numbers, but an attitude of parody, play, and manipulating the television genre remains the same.
The segments for Sesame Street are at their best when Wegman’s parodic and playful attitude toward the world is on display. In one sequence, a mechanic played by the head of a dog and the hands of Wegman’s studio assistant does the job of checking the oil and finding a part that needs to be replaced. A woman, also played by a dog but dressed up and aided by human appendages, questions everything the mechanic does. Wegman’s voice plays both parts: “You’re low on oil. I’d better put some in”—“Is that really oil?”— “It’s some kind of fluid.” The adult world is portrayed as one of bad faith, in which mechanics say the things that mechanics say, and waiters say the things that waiters say, but often their hands don’t know which way their heads are looking and the voices are all the same (Wegman’s) (Fig. 5). The picture that emerges is one of an alienated and alienating adult life, in which one is a mere fragment of one’s body. Wegman’s use of the televisual vernacular in this instance is successful in penetrating the dominant ideological field with the force of an oppositional heteroglossia. Organizing the whole sequence is not an omniscient and rational narrator but a lampoon from the mind of a madman who sees the various professions “in your neighborhood” as an opportunity to make fun of our taken-for-granted assumptions about everyday life and the social order. While Wegman’s body of work operates within the dominant norms of television and video, it draws a lesson from the combination and variation of subject positions available in both everyday utterances and those that have come to dominate our screens. We can talk to ourselves, we can take on the voices of others, and, seeing the fragmented and fragmenting world, we can make new meaning through narration. This is not the world of personal self-fashioning, however, but the dialogical practice of making new and oppositional, even questioning or quizzical, meaning from everyday speech. [End Page 123]
In exploring the link between postconceptual video art and educational television, I have highlighted the complementary development of modes of situated practice that supplemented the critique of television with a transformation of consciousness, understood as a combination of cognitive processes and situated knowledge held in tension with one another. Not only are the ideas about dialogic, varied, and situated practice developed by postconceptual video artists and the CTW similar in their underlying assumption that subjectivity, consciousness, and/or cognition are constructed and shaped across multiple concrete interactions, but they also yielded practical experiments in research and production that sought to reshape how such situatedness could take place within the very medium of television. This insight complicates the claim that practice is a negative symptom or a reflection of determining social structures, as art critics and social scientists have often claimed. Certainly, by adopting the terminology of practice in order to establish a more flexible relationship to the modes of production under capitalism, video artists and public-education specialists such [End Page 124] as the CTW took part in a larger historical shift toward new media and, with it, emergent forms of commodification, alienation, and exploitation. But in doing so, they also sought explicitly to ironize, parody, and introduce heterogeneity within the television genres that were coming to dominate contemporary American lives. To see the way Baldessari, Rosler, and Wegman were doing this with educational modes of address is consequential to the degree that it played with the relationship between a private self or subjectivity and public or collective spheres of activity. Educational television at the CTW worked explicitly on the thoughts, knowledge, understanding, and abilities of real people, demonstrating the way educational situations put theory into practice, how practice facilitates the comprehension of abstract ideas, and how the consciousness of learners is changed. It is necessary, then, to extend the meaning of practice—beyond simply the post-studio or postmedium condition—in order to understand how the construction of subjectivity can be oriented toward the establishment of real (i.e., institutionally transformative) power.
This transformative power is what I am holding out for as the positivity of practice. I understand Peter Osborne’s writing as such a project relative to de Duve’s periodization. Like de Duve, Osborne also identifies a certain historical moment when art stopped concerning itself with categories such as medium and modes of studio production. Osborne goes further, however, in establishing a historical and critical category of “postconceptual art,” an art historical and interpretative framework that follows from the insights of 1960s conceptualism. Osborne’s framework asserts that even though contemporary art cannot really ever “dematerialize,” as was often the claim, it has come nonetheless to emphasize ideas, the nomination of ideas as art, and the relationship between ideas. Practice, in general, should be understood similarly. Together with the failure to rid art of its reliance on material form—a failure that is really more like a demonstration of an equally important governing principle that art cannot be extracted from its historical and material situation—the practice of relating ideas one to another and to the category of art is situated and dialogic. Within the context of an emerging postconceptualism, the early videos and educational television discussed here develop the notion of practice along these lines. Osborne’s notion of postconceptual art, in which artists engage in situated acts of discriminating between categories, concepts, behaviors, and the like, helps us put this playfulness into a historical and material context. If we begin making good on the positivity of practice, we might move beyond the “crisis of invention” that has [End Page 125] undoubtedly contributed to an era of post-truth, alternative facts, and “hyper-normalisation.”39 Far from cultivating a narcissistic lack of consciousness that fails to produce any real social change, television and video continue to be sites at which politics and culture collide.
tim ridlen is a scholar working at the intersection of art history, media studies, and critical theory. He has taught courses in the history, theory, and production of media art at the City College of New York, Al Quds Bard Honors College in East Jerusalem, and at the University of California San Diego. He is currently Professor of Instruction at the University of Tampa, where he teaches courses in the history and theory of animation, film, and new media.
1. Thierry de Duve, “When Form Has Become Attitude—and Beyond,” in The Artist and the Academy: Issues in Fine Art Education and the Wider Cultural Context, ed. Nicholas de Ville and Stephen Foster (Southampton, UK: John Hansard Gallery, 1994), 23–40.
2. Ibid., 39.
3. See Blake Stimson, “Art and Social Death,” A Blade of Grass, January 29, 2018, http://www.abladeofgrass.org/fertile-ground/art-social-death/; Lane Relyea, Your Everyday Art World (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013).
4. See David Joselit, Feedback: Television against Democracy (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007); and William Kaizen, Against Immediacy: Video Art and Media Populism (Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2016).
5. Kaizen, Against Immediacy, 9.
6. See Yvonne Spielmann, Video: The Reflexive Medium (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008); and Chris Meigh-Andrews, A History of Video Art, 2nd ed. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014).
7. See Howard Singerman, Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).
8. Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art (New York: Verso, 2013).
9. See Jean Lave, “Situating Learning in Communities of Practice,” in Perspectives on Socially Shared Cognition, ed. Lauren B, Resnick, John M. Levine, and Stephanie D. Teasley (Washington, DC: American Pyschological Association, 1991).
10. See oral history interview with John Baldessari, 1992 April 4–5 (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution). For further discussion of Baldessari’s not teaching, see Jacquelyn Ardam, “On Not Teaching Art: Baldessari, Pedagogy, and Conceptualism,” ASAP/Journal 3, no. 1 (2018): 143–71.
11. See Hans Magnus Enzensberger, The Consciousness Industry: On Literature, Politics and the Media (New York: Continuum/Seabury Press, 1974).
12. Rosalind Krauss, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” October 1 (Spring 1976): 59.
14. See Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre, “The Economic Life of Things: Commodities, Collectibles, Assets,” New Left Review 98 (March/April 2016): 31–54. See also Antonio Negri, Time for Revolution (London: Bloomsbury, 2003); David Harvey, “Universal Alienation and the Real Subsumption of Daily Life under Capital: A Response to Hardt and Negri,” tripleC 16, no. 2 (2018): 424–39; Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (1999; London: Verso, 2005).
15. See Martha Rosler, “‘ Video Art,’ Its Audience, Its Public,” The Independent 10, no. 10 (December 1987): 14–17.
16. Ibid., 16.
17. Ibid., 17.
18. Martha Rosler, “Teaching Photography: The Critical Issue,” New Art Examiner 9, no. 4 (September 1989): 36.
19. Martha Rosler, “To Argue for a Video of Representation. To Argue for a Video against the Mythology of Everyday Life,” in Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), 366.
20. Ibid., 368.
21. Ibid., 369.
22. See, for example, Charlotte Brunsdon, “Feminism, Postfeminism, Martha, Martha, and Nigella,” Cinema Journal 44, no. 2 (Winter 2005): 110–16.
23. See Joan Ganz Cooney, “The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education,” (New York: Carnegie Corporation/Children’s Television Workshop, 1966).
24. Gerald S. Lesser, Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street (New York: Vintage, 1974), 31.
25. Robert W. Morrow, Sesame Street and the Reform of Children’s Television (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).
26. John Baldessari, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 160. Reprinted in Meg Cranston and Hans Ulrich Obrist, eds., More Than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari, vol. 1, Documents Series (Zürich: JRP | Ringier, 2013), 76.
27. John D. Bransford and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Rethinking Transfer: A Simple Proposal with Multiple Implications,” Review of Research in Education 24, no. 1 (1999): 61–100.
28. For the story of how the CTW arrived at this format, see Lesser, Children and Television. For studies on varied practice cited by Fisch, see Mary L. Gick and Keith J. Holyoak, “Schema Induction and Analogical Transfer,” Cognitive Psychology 15, no. 1 (1983): 1–38; Gavriel Salomon and David N. Perkins, “Rocky Roads to Transfer: Rethinking Mechanisms of a Neglected Phenomenon,” Educational Psychologist 24, no. 2 (1989): 113–42. See also Mark K. Singley and John R. Anderson, The Transfer of Cognitive Skill (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989). For a more recent study on the efficacy of varied practice, see Michael K. Goode, Lisa Geraci, and Henry L. Roediger, “Superiority of Variable to Repeated Practice in Transfer on Anagram Solution,” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 15, no. 3 (2008): 662–66.
29. See Shalom M. Fisch, Children’s Learning from Educational Television: Sesame Street and Beyond (Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum, 2004).
30. See Morrow, Sesame Street.
31. T[heodor]. W. Adorno, “How to Look at Television,” The Quarterly of Film Radio and Television 8, no. 3 (Spring 1954): 213–35.
32. See Amy Villarejo, “Adorno by the Pool; Or, Television Then and Now,” Social Text 34, no. 2 (June 2016): 71–87.
33. See Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson (1963; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984). See also V. N. Vološinov and Mikhail Bakhtin, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, trans. Ladislav Matejka and I. R. Titunik (1929; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973).
34. Mikhail Bakhtin’s ideas emerge across a series of publications throughout his lifetime and in works attributed to others. Here I refer specifically to M. M Bakhtin, “The Problem of Speech Genres,” in Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 60– 102; M. M. Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel,” in The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 259–422; and Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics.
35. Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, 185.
36. Lave, “Situating Learning,” 64.
37. Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All, 48.
38. Craig Owens, “William Wegman’s Psychoanalytic Vaudeville,” in Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture, ed. Scott Bryson, et al. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 156–65.
39. This last term is a reference to Adam Curtis, “HyperNormalisation” (London: BBC, 2016), in which Rosler is placed alongside Patti Smith as an example of the way artists responded in the late 1970s to political setbacks and an emerging neoliberalism.