“The Guy who Puts Dots Over People’s Faces”

I found each of the video portraits interesting, thought provoking, and creatively done. But I must say that A Brief History of John Baldessari had me inspired.  The fast paced, let’s jump right into it mentality was just what captured my attention.  Tom Waits, a man whose character and voice inspired Heath Ledger’s Joker, gave this short film another layer of depth.  The first thing I did when I heard his rough and husky voice was look around me.  I was spooked and almost felt like he might have been sitting across the table talking at me.  Simple changes of his voice throughout the less than six minute film Waits was able to transform the tone from comedic to satirical to spooky and finally to just straight horror movie scary.  “I WILL NOT MAKE ANYMORE BORING ART.”

At first Waits introduces Baldessari as a pretty average guy with an average pencil and an average chair.  The first time we see and hear Baldessari he seems like he is just your average guy who seems to be impressed with the sound of his narrator’s voice.  Then all of a sudden the familiar sound of upbeat horns picks up as we learn that Baldessari is in fact far from common, he is an icon.  Waits loses his breath as he rambles through the seemingly infinite number of awards and praise that Baldessari was given over the years.  Then we are brought to another scene where Waits shows us Baldessari’s average coffee machine and his insignificant password.    

 I think this is one of the reasons we like Baldessari so much in this short film.  The director plays into ethos here by showing the other side of the uber-famous Baldessari that we can relate to.  He does not come off as a genius artist or a profound individual, he just comes off as someone who was messing around with stickers and was like, “Hey, this could be hilarious!”


This film used several techniques that I would be interested in mirroring in my video portrait.  I was worried that using photos in the portrait wouldn’t be able to portray the sort of tone or emotion I wanted but I noticed that by altering them to either black and white, adding text to them, or layering them could still be provoking. 

 For the last two weeks our class has deliberated the importance, meaning, legitimacy, and purpose of archives.  We discussed the idea that the past helps build the future and in some cases vice versa.  When Baldessari burned hundreds of pieces of his past art in the 1970s was he destroying part of the past or using the past to create something bigger—his “Cremation Piece?”


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