Throughout my time studying film one thing I’ve learned is that the best kind of film has one central theme, point, or message that every single element in the film strives to convey. Together, these elements combine to strongly and artistically communicate a cohesive message. The point of this particular film is to convey who John Baldessari is as an artist, and to allow the viewer to not only see the type of art John creates but also make them experience its essence. This film itself represents a piece of Conceptual Art. It helped me to comprehend and appreciate the artistic mission of conceptual artists such as John and the filmmakers. The type of art that John Baldessari does is all about layering, zeitgeists, copies, and simulacra. In short: originals and copies, and how those two things come together, combine, and (going along with the theme of this class) can be archived and remixed. It’s a very postmodern artistic genre that questions a lot of the things we’ve been discussing in class such as, what is an original? And when a copy is created is it less meaningful than the original? This type of art even proposes that originals can augment in value by being copied and then altered or remixed in some way. That is what this video does. It takes many preexisting things such as video, art, music and then remixes them to tell John’s story. It also plays around with the idea of layering and multi-representation to highlight the question what is the original?
This film has great momentum—it introduces its theme with the first shot, a shot of a pencil which reads John Baldessari. In voiceover we hear the words: “this is John Baldessari’s pencil”. The redundant conveyance of information demonstrates the layering technique that is carried throughout the film. After we hear about John’s chair, view, and see the man himself the video delves into the tale of John’s artistic history. The film picks up momentum—layering music, text, and images on top of the interview office video and voiceover. It pulls in popular visual references, such as a Godfather poster when orating John’s position as the godfather of conceptual art. It also illustrates its points at times, such as pixelating a picture of Salvador Dali to exemplify the differences between the historical and the contemporary surrealist artists. The use of text is helpful and renders quickly spoken information, such as just how many solo shows John Baldessari has put on—more palatable. As opposed to being overwhelming, the layering serves well to convey a vast amount of information very concisely and clearly. It allows the filmmakers to highlight particular facts and figures. It’s also cool that the filmmakers created a piece of conceptual art in a film about conceptual art.
The film is also very meta—meaning it is aware of itself as a film. This helped to create the postmodern feel and also made the film more fun. The first meta moment is when the man speaking voiceover says: “John Baldessari decided this film should be narrated by me, Tom Waits” to which John seems to respond: “He’s got a great voice”. To which Tom responds “Thanks, John”. The meta technique helped to weave all the elements of the film together and have them interact with each other. It also helped me as a viewer stay with the narrator and not get lost in a jumbled mess of images, video, and voiceover.
This type of remixed video is visually awesome, and it is also a great way to illustrate the creative power of remixing—the whole point of this film, John’s work, and the film we watched in class. I am beginning to wonder however, is this type of film editing effective in every genre, and will it soon become standard editing practice, or is the effect useful almost exclusively in videos whose central theme is about the value of copies, alteration, and remixing?