“Hey Mom, I Made It and I’m OK”: Self-Help and Conceptual Art in 1970s California

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This essay examines (post-)conceptual art practices in 1970s Los Angeles in relation to the epistemology of self-help. It takes as its prompt artworks that integrate autobiography and life narrative, and critical reviews that frequently framed such practices as therapy, setting them against the backdrop of the early 1970s rise in popular life-improvement literature and products, and practices. The essay reads three works–Allen Ruppersberg’s documentary installation Where’s Al? (1972), Ilene Segalove’s video series The Mom Tapes (1974), and Eleanor Antin’s photoseries The Eight Temptations (1972)– in terms of the shared structural imperatives of conceptual art and self-help and the commercial logic that governs the self-schema as it is performed in public. As such, they represent an affectionate critique of conceptual practice and countercultural self-actualisation alike. In turn, the essay asks how this new understanding of conceptual practice as life (improvement) work might alter our understanding of post-studio practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLifework
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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