Wifi passwords? Thumbtacks? What impact do they have on Baldessari’s art (his art presumably the reason why there’ s a “brief history” video featuring him)? It’s the objects themselves, but the placement of them in the video, the randomness, quick comments about them that are why they are included: they speak to Baldessari’s dry sense of humor. After watching the video (particularly the moment where he films himself writing “I will not create any more boring art”), the one thing I knew for sure about Baldessari was that he must have a very dry sense of humor. Quick, fleeting comments that people either laugh at or look at you strangely for. What’s a better way to capture that in video than through quick cuts?
One of the first things that stood out to me when I watched the video was how quickly the viewer is bombarded with information. The main way the quickness is achieved is through quick cuts: an image will flash on the screen and barely stay there for two seconds before being replaced with another one. But what is particularly interesting is the use of graphic words on screen. Take, for example, the moment starting at about 50 seconds. We see the word “John” flash up on the screen with barely enough time for us to read it before it goes away and “Baldessari” replaces it. The words “is a towering figure” all appear in a similar manner: one at a time, flashing up just long enough for us (and the narrator) to read them. Visually, it helps to create the pace of the whole video; seeing a sentence one word at a time like that creates a hurried feeling that putting the whole sentence would not create.
As I mentioned before, I think that the quickness strategically speaks to Baldessari’s sense of humor. Dry humor is often just a quick line in the middle of a conversation (like your logic professor suddenly throwing in a line about flying robots in the middle of talking about proofs). As we absorb this stream of information flying at us in a hurried manner, the sudden moments of, “This is John Baldessari’s wifi password,” make us stop and go, “Wait, what just happened?” But the video’s already moved on. The story is, as titled, the history of John Baldessari. But it’s not just, “He was born here, he did this, he did that, he has these accomplishments.” It captures his personality, particularly his sense of humor.
Question for discussion: What else can quick cuts be used to capture about a person’s personality?