Letter on the Blind, for the Use of Those Who See, 2007
In this film, inspired by an ancient Indian story, the artist Javier Tellez questions the notion of blindness and vision. Its title is taken from an namesake essay by French enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot (1749). In the video, one by one, six different blind people touch an elephant, an elephant they have never been able to see. After the encounter, they describe their experience of feeling this powerful animal for the very first time. Through this film the artist wonders who sees better, the blind or the ones who have sight. The title of the work says everything : letter on the blind, for the use of those who see. The film is an exercise in translation between the different senses.
Javier Téllez was born in Valencia, Venezuela, in 1969. He studied at Arturo Michelena School of Fine Arts, Venezuela. The son of psychiatrists, Téllez developed a close affinity with institutionalized patients with mental illnesses. This is reflected in his art, which, through installation, film, and video, addresses the general public’s understanding of such marginalized populations. His work questions the meaning of sanity by characterizing it as an axis rather than a fixed state. Téllez’s 16 mm film Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See (2007) was inspired by the ancient Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant, in which each man touches a different part of the animal, and as a result the group disagrees about its overall nature. Téllez’s film features six blind participants and includes their spoken descriptions, thereby presenting a doubled phenomenological experience: that of the blind actors, who can never fully experience the elephant, and of the viewer, who can never fully understand the experience of the blind.