4 1/2. Along with installations, the Kunstverein is presenting Tellez's four most important films (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, Oedipus Marshall, Letter on the Blind (For the Use of Those Who See), and Caligari and the Sleepwalker), where the artist questions that what we understand by emotional and physical "normality". His work oscillates between fiction and documentation at accustomed socio-cultural boundaries and reinterprets classic material from the stage and screen.
The Kunstverein Braunschweig is presenting the first European
institutional solo exhibition of the New York artist Javier Tèllez
(born 1969 in Venezuela). Along with installations, the Kunstverein is
presenting Tèllez's four most important films: 'La Passion de
Jeanne d'Arc (Rozelle Hospital, Sydney)' (2004), 'Oedipus Marshall'
(2006), 'Letter on the Blind (For the Use of Those Who See)' (2007) as
well as his most recent production 'Caligari and the Sleepwalker' (2008).
Javier Tèllez, who has already participated in numerous
international group exhibitions such as the Biennales in Sao Paulo (1998),
Gwanju (2000), Venice (2001 und 2003), Sydney (2003), the Whitney Biennale
(2008) and, finally, Manifesta 7, tears with his work that oscillates
between fiction and documentation at accustomed socio-cultural boundaries
and reinterprets classic material from the stage and screen. In his
films, the artist questions that what we understand by emotional and
physical 'normality.' As the son of two psychiatrists, Tèllez came
into contact with psychiatric facilities at a young age. 'When I started
visiting museums at that time, I noticed quite a few similarities between
the typologies of both kinds of institutions. Hygienically pure spaces,
long corridors, strained styles and the weight of architecture... Both
institutions are emblematic representations of authority that rely upon
classifications such as 'normal' versus 'pathological' and 'inclusive'
'La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (Rozelle Hospital, Sydney)' (2004) is regarded as Tèllez's pathbreaking film production. The reworked silent film 'Jeanne d'Arc' (1928) and the film 'Twelve and a Marionette', which was shot in psychiatric clinic, are shown in a double projection. Twelve women speak in very different fashions about the institutional dealing with their illnesses (depression, schizophrenia). The juxtaposed projections of Jeanne d'Arc-who was stigmatized in her day as a possessed person and is now recognized as a misunderstood visionary and magnificent national hero-place the patients in a new perspective. These films demand with great urgency a rethinking of the notions of healthy and ill, normal and abnormal. In the film 'Oedipus Marshall' (2006), Tèllez stages Sophocles' classic tragedy, Oedipus Rex, with Western costumes and Japanese masks. An abandoned gold mining town in Colorado served as the backdrop. Using interchangeable elements from our collective memory, a film came about which takes up and simultaneously breaks down familiar things. The masks and maskings in Tèllez's films introduce Meta levels. As ambivalent elements, they conceal or demystify them; they destabilize personality boundaries, but also symbolize the facility of psychologically ill persons for mimicry. 'Letter on the Blind (For the Use of Those Who See)' (2007) draws on the eponymous classic by Diderot and the Buddhist parable of the blind persons and the elephant. In the story, the blind persons each feel only one part of the elephant's body and describe it. Accordingly, their descriptions of one and the same animal are remarkably different.
The parable makes us aware of the fact that 'reality' is by no means an objectively appraisable constant, but defined by our own perception instead. Tèllez stages the encounter of the six blind New Yorkers with the elephant in a disused swimming pool. The distinctly individual voices of the protagonists enable the senses of taste, hearing, and smelling to come to the fore, while the poetic, black and white images are silently scaled back. His most recent film, 'Caligari and the Sleepwalker' (2008), is based on the 1919 Expressionist silent film, 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.' In Tellèz's interpretation, Dr. Caligari carries out a kind of therapeutic conversation with Cesare, 'the alien from the slave star,' who has been in a kind on somnambulist state for years and can only communicate by means of panels of slate. The mixture of layers of reality, changes of identity, and polyphony are the themes that Tèllez's films often deal with contentually, but also realize in terms of representational techniques. By selecting the Einstein Tower- the architect Erich Mendelsohn's icon of Expressionist architecture in Potsdam-as the site of the film, he additionally points to an epoch of art and film history that dealt for the first time with pathological disturbances and drew inspiration from it.
A comprehensive, retrospective catalog-the very first monograph-with texts by Guy Brett, Michele Faquet and Hilke Wagner (Foreword), among others, will be published on the occasion of the exhibition.
Oedipus Marshall, 2006, Filmstill. Courtesy: Peter Kilchmann, Zürich | Figge von Rosen, Köln | Galerie ARRATIA, BEER, Berlin
Katrin Meder | Tel. 0531 49556 | email@example.com
Opening: Friday, April 17, 2009 at 7 p.m.
Lessingplatz 12 - Braunschweig
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 11 am to 5 pm, Thu 11 am to 8 pm