American artist John Baldessari realized a special project, which functioned as a framework for Home Screen Home. The walls of the exhibition spaces of Witte de With were covered with wallpaper designed by Baldessari, in combination with photographs of lamps and plants. With its reference to the home as the setting for watching television, junkfood and TV dinners, the wallpaper installation was an ironic comment on television culture.

In relation to the exhibition Home Screen Home, John Baldessari realizes a special project: 4 RMS W VU: wallpaper, flowerpots, lamps, NEW. The project is a collage of wallpaper designed by Baldessari in combination with black-and-white photographs of lamps and flowerpots. The installation refers to domestic space as the setting for watching television.

American artist John Baldessari (1931) has been very conscious of the effects of mass media on the spectator. In his photo work, he comments on the imagery of Hollywood movies, television, advertisements and photojournalism. His major tool is the principle of montage.

Montage, as it was used by the avant-garde’s of the early twentieth century, for example in the films of Sergey Eisenstein or the photomontages of John Heartfield, strove for a clash of images. The aim of montage was to break the naturalism of the continuous filmstrip by replacing it with a disconnected assemblage of images.

Mass media, however, would recuperate the very techniques of the avant-garde. By now the clash of images has become a common, everyday experience. As American critic John Miller observed in his essay on Baldessari, if the umbrella and the sewing machine once met by chance on Lautréamont’s surrealistic dissecting table, in advertisement that encounter has now become routine. The newspaper and television present ads, natural disasters and political events all on the same footing; because they have to compete with one another for attention, these otherwise dissociated items become comparably trivial. Both media have an effect of leveling and transvaluation that is characteristic of capitalist society.

At a time when reading through a series of images has become so normal to mass media spectators that it seems to be a reflex response, Baldessari makes us stand still before the mechanisms of montage. In order to do this, he subjects the technique of montage to an ironic reversal. Instead of consciously arranging images according to a meaningful juxtaposition, he uses a kind of non-signifying montage, for example by shooting television movies at random with an intervalometer. By using the camera as an analytical tool that stops action, Baldessari reveals the latent, not manifest, meaning of mass media imagery.

The project was realized in collaboration with the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich and the Museu d’ Art Contemporani MACB, Barcelona.