What must you kill in order to go on to live?

In 1970, John Baldessari cremated all the art he created between 1953 and 1966. He keeps the ashes in a bronze, book-shaped urn.

Let’s say that another way.

Everything John Baldessari created for thirteen years – the soul, the heart, the love, the tears, the pain (because true art really does hurt a lot of the time) – became ash, at the creator’s own hand.

That’s a lot of his own history to just drop. Yeah, he’s holding onto it, but not in its conceived form. It’s dead. He didn’t just pile the stuff, pour some gasoline and light a match. He did it in a crematorium. He put it through a death ritual.

And then he turned on a camera and wrote, “I will not make any more boring art,” until the film ran out.

He says he’ll probably best be remembered as the guy who put dots on people’s faces.

But before he could be remembered that way, he had to put 13 years of output to death. What do you have to kill, to go on to live?


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