Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who See

Javier Téllez

17 May 2007

Super-16 mm film transferred to video, b/w, sound (5.1). 27’ 36”

This work is inspired by the Hindu parable “The Blind Men and the Elephant”, which shows how reality is constructed from a clash of different perspectives. The story goes that six blind men all touch different parts of an elephant and then cannot agree on the description of the animal; each one has come away with a different idea, ranging from a tree trunk to a wall, a rope or a palm leaf, depending on whether the part they touched was the elephant’s leg, its side, tail or ear. Téllez’s film is undercut by a paradox: How can one address the experience of blindness through a visual medium? Made in collaboration with a group of blind men from Brooklyn who are brought into physical contact with an elephant for the first time, the piece is structured around the diversity of the participants’ opinions instead of the single voice of a narrator. By multiplying the voices and offsetting the weight of visuality in lieu of the sense of touch and voice, Téllez makes an exploration of subjectivity, a polyphonic guide helping us to contrast vision with other perceptual experiences.