Sue de Beer
Harry Dodge & Stanya Kahn
Luis Gispert & Jeffrey Reed
Erik van Lieshout
Stephen G. Rhodes
Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch
Where is the difference between the Maid of Orléans and a patient diagnosed with a schizophrenic psychosis? In the waning Middle Ages, the French farmer’s daughter Joan of Arc claimed to have visions from God urging her to free her homeland from English domination. Provided with the king’s army, she then proceeded to expel the English from Orléans. (Later, of course, when she was no longer needed, she was executed for heresy). People with schizophrenic disorders usually hear voices, too, but unlike Joan of Arc, they don’t become heroes of history.
However, the question with which we began has perhaps been wrongly posed. Our inclination to prove that Joan of Arc did not really hear the voice of God, but rather suffered from delusions does not hit the crux of a story that is based primarily on a woman’s emancipation from her designated social role. Javier Téllez has thus conceived another scenario by searching for similarities between Joan of Arc and the schizophrenic. Over the course of several weeks, the artist engaged intensively with several patients from a women’s psychiatric clinic in Sydney, Australia. The women offered insight into their illnesses and sensibilities in front of the camera. Then, together with the artist, they restaged the famous silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) by Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer. The women in the film replaced the original text with their own ideas and wordings in order to be able to identify with Joan of Arc, who then stood both as an example of and as a point of reference for their own suffering.
Neurotic disorders are more easily tolerated in modern society than psychotic disorders because, to greatly simplify the situation, neurotics are aware of their disorder and able to reflect upon it. People suffering from psychoses, in contrast, are incapable of distinguishing their inner world (e.g., hearing voices) from the surrounding reality, and subsequently come to regard the outer world as hostile. Thus unable to take responsibility for itself, the ill subject feels like a victim of the outside world and restricts its activity to passive suffering. According to Sigmund Freud, neurosis can be understood as an illness of guilt. However, psychosis, along with depression, are seen as illnesses of responsibility, in which feelings of inadequacy dominate over those of guilt, or in which feelings of guilt are experienced as a kind of inadequacy (see Alain Ehrenberg’s work). Our current understanding of “mental health” interweaves physical health and social behavior. Those no longer capable of or willing to engage in “normal” social behavior are categorized as ill. They are considered incapable of conforming their emotions and morality to the expectations of others. Téllez’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Rozelle Hospital) observes women who could not meet the requirements of their social environment and who consequently had to renounce their own social needs. Their depression is a symptom of their failure in the world.
By echoing Joan of Arc’s story, Téllez’s work also establishes a connection with society’s inability to deal with the needs and fears of the individual. As a consequence, individuals are tacitly ostracized. The depressions from which all patients suffer, regardless of their different diagnoses, can be understood symbolically as their capitulation to the ever increasing requirements of a world that demands, first and foremost, that we be responsible, flexible, active, and socially competent.
Lives and works in New York
|2006||Oedipus Marshal, Distinguished Artist in Residence: Javier Téllez, Aspen Art Museum, USA |
La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Rozelle Hospital), Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich
|2005||La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (Rozelle Hospital), The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, Canada|
|2004||A Hunger Artist, Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City|
|2002||Alpha 60 (The Mind-Body Problem), White Box, New York|
|2007||2nd Moscow Bienniale of Contemporary Art, Moscow|
|2006||On Mobility II, De Appel Centre for Contemporary Art, Amsterdam|
|2005||inSite 05, San Diego, USA; Tijuana, Mexico|
|2004||On Reason and Emotion, Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia|
|2003||Utopia Station, Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the Viewer, 50. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, La Biennale di Venezia|
On Mobility, ed. Dirk van Weelden, exh. cat. De Appel Centre for Contemporary Art (Amsterdam, 2006).
Dominique Von Burg, “Javier Téllez bei Peter Kilchmann,” in: Kunst-Bulletin, no. 5 (May 2006).
The Pantagruel Syndrome, ed. Francesco Bonami and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, exh. cat. T1 Torino Triennale Tremusei (Milan, 2005).
[Situational] Public, ed. Osvaldo Sanchez, exh. cat. inSite 05 (San Diego/Tijuana, 2005).
Christian Rattemeyer, “Biennale of Sydney,” in: Artforum, no. 3 (November 2004).
Ossian Ward, “Biennale of Sydney,” in: Frieze. Contemporary Art and Culture, no. 86 (October 2004).