The Tyranny of Distance

  • Roland Baladi, Watch my face to read my thoughts, 1975, at TALM-Angers, November 2018

  • Roland Baladi, Watch my face to read my thoughts, 1975, at FLAX@ Tin Flats, November 2018

Roland Baladi, Watch my face to read my thoughts, 1975
Video (3:41) and questionnaires

"Anna: Should we start with Roland Baladi?

Maud: Yes. So, Roland Baladi is one of the pioneers of video art in France. His piece is at first glance deceptively simple. In the work you can see that he is making eye contact with the camera.

Sébastien: So he looks at the viewer.

Anna: He looks at the viewer and we are asked to watch his face to read his thoughts.

Maud: Then there is a questionnaire beside the video that asks you if the telepathic message has been sent, and uses the accompanying census to evaluate or measure the viewer’s receipt of the supposed message.

Sébastien: Like many of the pieces in this show, this work finds a point of ambivalence between utopian hopes, and futility. Here we have the promise of telepathy between the artist and the viewer, mediated by 50 years time since it was made, a television monitor, a camera (that we don’t see), and all the other intermediary devices that come between the emission of the artist’s thoughts and their reception by the viewer.

Maud: At the time when he was making this video there were discussions in France about the use of surveys, because more and more surveys were being used to evaluate people’s opinions and status, and so it was also a criticism of this idea of wanting to know transparently what people were thinking, and wanting to translate those more nebulous experiences into quantifiable data through the absurd use of surveys. And we could say that this greed for measuring peoples’ behaviour and capturing it in data has only increased since this video was first made.

Anna: So the work plays on this idea of technology as a medium that aspires towards telepathic communication, and more generally art as a form of wordless communication, while at the same time trying to undermine that ideal, or that fantasy.

Sébastien: This ambivalence between the fantasy of telepathic communication and idiomatic and immeasurable interiority thematizes this exhibition, and helps illustrate the ideas we mentioned just earlier."

This text is an excerpt from the performance The Infiltration by Joshua Schwebel whose project was to infiltrate the curators’ position in the exhibition. Read more