In Praise of Folly: Global Mental Health Award for Innovation in the Arts

Date(s) - Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

On November 9th, the Global Mental Health Program presented JAVIER TÉLLEZ, acclaimed Venezuelan artist and filmmaker, with the 2nd Global Mental Health Award for Innovation in the Arts. Son of two psychiatrists, Tellez’s award-winning films and installations question definitions of normality and pathology, diminishing stereotypes associated with mental illness. Our program will include film clips, lecture, and discussion with this extraordinary artist. The event was moderated by John Hanhardt, Consulting Senior Curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum.



Using film, video, and installation, Javier Téllez (b. 1969, Valencia, Venezuela) questions definitions of normality and pathology. Tellez’s 2005 video One Flew over the Void (Bala perdida) documents a parade organized by the artist in Las Playas, a town on the border of Tijuana and San Diego, which featured ordinary citizens and patients from a local psychiatric hospital (the last disguised behind animal masks and wielding signs protesting various injustices). The action ends with a human cannonball being shot over the border into the United States, underscoring the hardships faced by the millions of Mexican and Central American workers who cross the border illegally every year in search of a better life. Read more about Mr. Téllez here.

“Téllez is earnest in his attempt to engage in an ethical, consequential manner with communities of individuals who live outside of the models of normative behavior that define the parameters of a ‘sane’ society but that are constantly shifting in relation to the ideological structures that determine this social order.” – Michele Faguet