The Power Plant

Javier Téllez: La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Rozelle Hospital)

Javier Téllez

Past Exhibition

Dec 08 2005 – Mar 04 2006

Javier Téllez: La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Rozelle Hospital) 9 December 2005 - 5 March, 2006 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On August 29 of this year, New York-based Venezuelan artist Javier Téllez staged a performance event on the beach at inSite Tijuana that culminated in the firing of a human cannonball across the Mexico/US border. The performance, entitled One flew over the void, also involved thirty-five psychiatric patients from the Baja California Mental Health Center in Mexicali, Mexico. Téllez called the project “living sculpture” and said it was about “dissolving borders” between the United States and Mexico and between mental health patients and the rest of the world. The event was the latest in a series that explores, amongst other things, the social and cultural contexts of psychiatry, and includes such works as the installation Choreutics, shown at the Venice Biennale in 2001, which involved the depiction of a community of Venezuelans in the throes of St. Vitus’s dance, dance-like movements that result from Huntington’s disease.

La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Rozelle Hospital) (2004) is perhaps Téllez’s most sustained work to date involving psychiatric patients. The work was produced as a result of a residency at Rozelle Hospital in Sydney, Australia, where Téllez worked with twelve female patients for over a month. As a video installation and twin projection, the work involves the use of the Carl Dreyer silent-film masterpiece La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc. Téllez worked with the patients to produce new inter-titles for the Dreyer film. On one wall the original film is screened while the new titles are continuously being inscribed onto a blackboard. On the facing wall a sequence of portraits of and interviews with the women are shown. Thus an intense dialogue and exchange is established between the haunting images of Renée Falconetti, who plays Jeanne d’Arc, and the humanity of the patients. On its completion, the women told Téllez that the project had been the best experience of their lives.

Javier Téllez describes La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Rozelle Hospital) as:

...A film about them and us.
A film about emotions.
A film about a film made by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1928….
A film that appropriates Dreyer’s classic film edited with a set of 174 new inter-titles created by the patients of Rozelle Hospital with a soundtrack composed of music and sounds also made by them to provide a new narrative for the original film.
A film about death and resurrection that translates Dreyer’s depiction of martyrdom in the 15th century to the context of a contemporary mental institution…
A film about the trial of the society vs. the individual.
A film about the normal and the pathological.
A film about the relationships between the patients and the institutional staff.
A film about the over-coding of diagnosis….
A film about mental illness.
A film about psychiatry.
A film about the state.
A film about reason…

The installation was one of the highlights of the 2004 Sydney Biennale. Its presentation at The Power Plant is only its second exhibition and marks the first time a major work by Téllez has been seen in Canada.

Dual-channel video projection (97 min. and 41 min.), velvet curtains, hospital blankets, chairs, and blackboard. Courtesy the artist.

Dual-channel video projection (97 min. and 41 min.), velvet curtains, hospital blankets, chairs, and blackboard. Courtesy the artist.

Dual-channel video projection (97 min. and 41 min.), velvet curtains, hospital blankets, chairs, and blackboard. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Dual-channel video projection (97 min. and 41 min.), velvet curtains, hospital blankets, chairs, and blackboard. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Dual-channel video projection (97 min. and 41 min.), velvet curtains, hospital blankets, chairs, and blackboard. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.

Dual-channel video projection (97 min. and 41 min.), velvet curtains, hospital blankets, chairs, and blackboard. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Rafael Goldchain.