ALPHA 60 (THE MIND – BODY PROBLEM)
CURATED BY RAUL ZAMUDIO
SEPTEMBER 2 – OCTOBER 26, 2002
WHITE BOX presents internationally recognized Venezuelan artist Javier Téllez with an installation consisting of 2,000 miniature cars made from soap bars and sponges with accompanying video footage made in collaboration with the patients of Nirgua psychiatric hospital in Venezuela. Téllez has recently been featured in Flash Art s September issue, was shown in the last Venice Biennale and has exhibited in New York at PS1 and Queens Museum.
Alpha 60 (the mind-body problem), a multimedia installation by Javier Téllez, takes as its point of thematic departure a crucial element from Jean Luc Godard’s science fiction film, Alphaville. In that film, there is a supercomputer called Alpha 60 that controls Alphaville and that monitors its populace. Although Alphaville provides an idyllic life for its citizens in a crime-free environment, it is a society where conventionality and homogeneity are condoned, mediocrity prized, and banality celebrated. Alphaville is, in other words, a totalitarian and nightmarish world; it is a city “where words such as redbreast, weeping, autumn light, and tenderness disappear from the dictionary every day; a city where no one knows the meaning of the words “why” and “conscience.”
While the narrative strands in Godard’s film are many, an undercurrent that links Alphaville the film with Alpha 60 the installation is Alphaville’s mundane life and homogeneity as well as the notion of the ideal citizen who submits to society for the benefit of the collective; yet one of the returns of this social contract are the provisions and amenities provided that signify civility and that cushion and make uniformity palatable. Alpha 60 poignantly addresses this through Sisyphean tasks that are part of the installation’s formal strategy: over 2,000 miniature cars made from soap bars, boxes of psycho-pharmacological drugs and sponges seem to be pushing round, colorful objects as an end in itself. Transportation is thus seen not as progress but as regression, not as a means but for its own sake, not of dynamism but of stasis. One of these objects, which has grown to gargantuan proportions, is seen in a video projection filmed in a psychiatric hospital. The patients of the hospital, like the cars, are pushing the circular object around its grounds. -Raul Zamud