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Acting Naturally: The Face and the Mask

Commissioned for inSite_05 San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, 2005. Courtesy the artist & Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich.
In a 2006 interview, Javier Téllez spoke about his relationship to the participants in his performances and videos: ‘In my practice I try to create a flexible space where those represented can intervene in their own representation. According to Levinas, ethics is a devotion to the other: “I have to forget myself to access the other”‘. Téllez’s work is made in collaboration with individuals from marginalised segments of society the mentally or physically ill, and the economically or politically disenfranchised and foregrounds the problem of representation and self-representation within the context of art and medical institutions. He works with these self-selected groups in re-stagings of popular myths, or casts them in rituals and parades that he then films in ways that allow the work to slide easily between the categories of participatory events and documented performance. His practice identifies and makes a move to reverse a number of sociological and formal categories – ‘marginalised’ and ‘dominant’, ‘being’ and ‘communicating’, and, most importantly, ‘representation’ and ‘performance’ – honing its focus on the status of the participants in the pieces and on the shifting relationship between their interiority and external expression.