This text by Javier Téllez (b. 1968) was written to complement the conceptual proposal underlying his installation La extracción de la piedra de la locura [The Extraction of the Stone of Madness] presented at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas in 1996. A Venezuelan contemporary artist, Téllez has boldly addressed and delved into “madness” as social and cultural problem. He has explained on a number of occasions that his interest, even as a youth, in mental illness as a form of social marginalization is due to the fact that his parents were psychiatrists.
Here, the topic of madness is addressed in relation to the concept of the “museum.” Specifically, Téllez reflects on “institutionality” and, in those terms, he draws analogies between the psychiatric hospital and the museum. Téllez asserts that the psychiatric hospital is the most fitting specular image of the museum due to the “necrological connotations of the paradigmatic institution for the preservation of cultural heritage.” In his view, both spaces are a symbolic representation of authority, order, and discipline. The artist explains that the work intends to perform an act of appropriation by transporting the seclusion room of a mental hospital—the space of marginality par excellence—to the exhibition gallery. As such, the work entails the “deconstruction of the relationship between the object and its presentation.”
Téllez explains the meaning of the objects taken from the Hospital Psiquiátrico de Bárbula and of the viewer’s participation in a “flexible architecture” conducive to human relations and to active viewer participation in a specific art space.