The Italian Tape

1974, 8:33 min, b&w, sound

The Italian Tape plays with the meaning of language and its representation. Appropriating lines from a guidebook to Rome, Baldessari writes a series of Italian phrases and their English translations in chalk on a slate. While an Italian song — a cliched, emotive ballad — plays in the background, he manipulates a small plastic mannequin in imitation of the gestures in the guidebook. Phrases such as "It's of no interest to me" and "It makes me furious" are sequenced as if from a surreal conversation between an English speaker and an Italian. The phrases take on an oblique, cryptic life of their own: "What does it mean?" "What is it?" and "What are you looking for?" seem to be addressed to the viewer as spectator and interpreter, as well as an enigmatic dialogue between fictional characters in a narrative about art.

Produced by Art/Tapes/22.