I’m not sure what I was expecting from a video titled, “A Brief History of John Baldessari,” but I was not actually expecting it to be so much fun. The combination of bright colors and simple images, paired with recognizable, almost silly, music create a familiar, comfortable atmosphere for the viewer, even if you’re like me and had never heard this man’s name before.
The parts of the video that really set the tone and relayed Baldessari’s life were the still images that broke up the bits of video footage. The narrator would suggest a topic or little tidbit, like how Baldessari’s studio door has two peepholes or how he used colored dots on pictures to create his art. Then, a video sequence, usually of Baldessari briefly elaborating on the topic at hand would follow. After the short video segment, a series of still pictures would follow as the narrator continued explaining the topic introduced a few moments before.
These clips of still image sequences not only keep the video portions from becoming too long-winded, they also explain the topic even further than Baldessari and the narrator both can, as well as draw more attention to the words being said. For example, in the opening sequence when we are first being introduced to Baldessari, the narrator is listing all the names Baldessari has been called during his artistic career. These names are and words appear on the screen in bright colors stylized many different ways in order to set each word or phrase apart from the rest. As the sequence continues, the narrator lists the many different mediums Baldessari has created art in. As the narrator lists, examples of these objects appear on the screen.
Thinking about this approach, it is almost as if less is more. There is not an exorbitant amount of speaking that happens in the video, and most of the information is given through visuals. This is an idea that I would like to keep in mind as I approach the video portrait. Not including a ton of talking, or even text on the screen for that matter, is a very effective technique to use, especially if there is another way of conveying information, like through photographs.
These moments of still photography within the video work both to address the topic at hand and also Baldessari’s quirkiness, really help us see who Baldessari is. His occupation as an artist lends itself to the style of the piece, which itself is very artistic and even surreal at times. Flashing these sequences of photographs really help keep the video moving without sacrificing information. In a way, these photographs cram more information into the time given than both Baldessari and the narrator have time to talk about. Most people are very visual anyway, and this technique helps us to absorb more than what just the narrator is saying.