The Italian Tape

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The Italian Tape is a short video created by John Baldessari that was presented at The Kitchen in 1975. The video challenges the idea that meaning is inherent in language by disassociating the two. Baldessari displays phrases from an Italian guidebook throughout the video, juxtaposing them with their English translations, while a two-dimensional mannequin gestures the dialogue while a stereotypical Italian ballad plays in the background. Baldessari makes commonplace phrases such as “It makes me furious” seem surreal and disconnected from their translations and original meaning. Furthermore, the video reflects Baldessari’s experience as a second-generation immigrant inhabiting a multicultural American city in the twentieth century. The Italian Tape’s viewing was Baldessari’s first time showing at The Kitchen and was one of his earliest video works.

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