Javier Téllez: Caligari and the Sleepwalker
25 Nov 2016 – 29 Jan 2017
The last exhibition in 2016 at the Darkroom gallery presents Caligari and the Sleepwalker (Caligari und der Schlafwander, 2008) by Javier Téllez. The work is based on the 1920 classic silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene, generally considered a landmark of horror fiction and German Expressionism.

In Wiene’s original version, the cabinet of the mysterious Dr. Caligari features Cesare, a sleepwalker who can see the future and answer questions about it, but who also serves under hypnosis as the instrument of arbitrary murders for the doctor. The open ending of the film turns the story upside down, however: was everything ultimately only insanity and delusion of which the director of the mental hospital, Dr. Caligari, was trying to relieve the patient?

The son of two psychiatrists himself, Javier Téllez has had a privileged view of the many dimensions of the human psyche, its norms and disorders. In his artistic practice, he has given voice to mental patients and people with disabilities who would otherwise remain invisible or marginalised. Caligari and the Sleepwalker is another such work, created in collaboration with amateur actors and mental health patients in a workshop held at the Vivantes clinic in Berlin. The patients collaborated in the scripting of the film, the development of its characters as well as casting and acting. The key location is the solar observatory known as Einstein Turm, an iconic piece of German avant-garde architecture designed by Erich Mendelsohn. The presence of the building in the film is a reference to Wiene’s aesthetics but also to the era when psychiatric research and psychoanalysis were taking huge leaps forward and mental disorders and mental institutions were brought to the silver screen for the first time.

Caligari and the Sleepwalker explores the concepts of otherness, doppelgangers and schizophrenia by depicting, in classic silent film style, strange sessions between Cesare, a creature from outer space, and his psychiatrist. Like its inspiration, Téllez’s work plays with role inversion and the idea of fantasy within fantasy. At the same time, he also reveals to us the essence of cinema as a kind of illusion that mesmerises us into believing for a moment in things that are not real.

Javier Téllez (b. 1969 in Valencia, Venezuela) lives and works in New York. He is known for video and film works that combine elements from fiction and documentary films in order to re-evaluate and challenge our notions of normality.

Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Philipp von Rosen Galerie, Cologne

Turun taidemuseo, Aurakatu 26, 20100 Turku, Puh. 02 2627 100. © 2019