Before watching the documentary portrait on John Baldessari, I had no idea who he was. But apparently he has been called the “Godfather of conceptual fart, a master of appropriation, a surrealist for the digital age. He’s made paintings, photographs, billboards, videos, films, sculptures, digital art, credit cards, and an Iphone app.” (all said in the slightly monotone, very masculine, and coarse voice of Tom Waits.) Despite the vocal downplay of Baldessari’s numerous lifetime achievements, I found myself in wide-eyed awe over what this man has done with his life. Second to the bombardment of information about Baldessari’s accomplishments, I found myself visually assaulted by his art, photographs of his hometown, and bold, bright texts. The William Tell Overture kept the pace of the video fast, urgent, and exciting. To say the least, it was a lot to keep up with. By the end of the 5 minutes and 54 seconds of the film I felt like I had been whipped around, loop-dee-looped, and made all trarazan-faced on a rollercoaster ride.
Because I was so bombarded by the video the first time I watched it, I decided to give it another try and watch it again. My second viewing allowed me to pick up on things that I had missed the first time around. Like the fact that all of the text and supplemental pictures of the film reflect the style of Baldessari’s art, an aspect that flew right over my head previously. Individually all components of the film do this, creating a whole documentary truly in the style of the subject himself.
Apart from telling Baldessari’s story in his “way” or artistic style, the video also reveals who he is outside of the art he produces. This is done in the snippets of film from an interview with him. John comes across as nonchalant, like he knows he’s a big deal but doesn’t have to advertise the fact that he is. His responses are simple but bold enough to challenge such masculine figures like Clint Eastwood, taking him down a peg by simply questioning just how tall he is. When the narrator describes him as “so successful that he carries absolutely nothing in his pockets,” he responds, “Not a thing.” His personality in the interview pieces seems simple and almost quiet or even dull, especially in comparison to his art. In this way the film was effective in capturing more than one side of The John Baldessari. After watching this film and reflecting on it, I am ready to attempt to capture different aspects of an individual in my own work.