Four Minutes of Trying to Tune Two Glasses (For the Phil Glass Sextet)

1976, 4:09 min, b&w, sound

Executing a random action to its illogical conclusion, Baldessari investigates the manipulation of time in video. Setting an alarm clock at twenty minutes to twelve, he attempts to "tune" two glasses of water. As the clock ticks pitilessly, he rapidly pours water from one glass to the other to alter their pitches. His efforts become more urgent as the clock nears twelve, until at last the alarm goes off. Exploiting the cinematic convention that the perception of time is condensed as action escalates, he executes a cunning conjuring trick. Although the real time of the performance is a mere four minutes, the clock indicates that twenty minutes of screen time have elapsed. Like a Buster Keaton sight-gag or a Duchampian visual pun, the wit comes from the viewer's awareness of an absurd incongruity. Baldessari's reference to Philip Glass slyly alludes to the composer's subtle and monochromatic shifts in rhythm and tone.