NOSFERATU (The Undead)

April 22–June 17, 2018

b. 1969, Valencia, Venezuela | lives and works in New York City

NOSFERATU (The Undead) is a film installation by New York-based artist Javier Téllez that focuses on cinema and mental illness. It is the first exhibition to be presented as part of “Reflections on Place,” a series of media art commissions inspired by the City of Rochester, New York.

Téllez’ film was inspired by Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, the expressionist silent masterpiece directed by F. W. Murnau in 1922. Téllez made the work in collaboration with people living with mental illness after a series of workshops that he conducted on the subjects of vampirism and the representation of psychiatric institutions in film. Combining black-and-white 16mm and color digital film, NOSFERATU (The Undead) was shot at the Eastman Kodak factory, the Dryden Theatre of the George Eastman Museum*, and at the Main Street Armory, all in Rochester.

The Kodakery recently sat down with Javier Téllez, the artist responsible for the creation of NOSFERATU (The Undead), a commissioned work for MAG. Also joining them was Jonathan Binstock, the Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director of the MAG and John Hanhardt, Consulting Senior Curator of Media Arts for the MAG. NOSFERATU (The Undead) is part of a series called “Reflections on Place”: that place being Rochester, NY. Téllez is an artist who incorporates people living with mental disabilities into his work and he did the same with this piece. Inspired by the 1922 film Nosferatu, Téllez and a local cast created a film that incorporates celluloid, the theater and mental illness into an incredible body of work. Listen in to hear Téllez’ journey to make this film and how it lives within the MAG.

read the press release

Reflections on Place | The Rochester Series

Opening April 2018
Reflections on Space

Watch our video
read more about “Reflections on Place”
The “Reflections on Place” series of media art commissions by the Memorial Art Gallery is made possible with support from the Zell Family, and Deborah Ronnen and Sherman Levey.

Additional support for the NOSFERATU (The Undead) commission is provided by the Gary and Marcia Stern Family Advised Fund at the Rochester Area Community Foundation, the Maurice and Maxine Forman Fund, the Marion Stratton Gould Fund, the Herdle-Moore Fund, the Strasenburgh Fund, the Lyman K. and Eleanore B. Stuart Endowment Fund, and an anonymous donor. In-kind support is provided by Eastman Kodak Company and the George Eastman Museum.

In Rochester, the exhibition is also made possible by the following:
Margaret Davis Friedlich and Alan and Sylvia Davis Memorial Fund
Robert A. and Maureen S. Dobies Endowment Fund
Irving and Essie Germanow Fund
Thomas and Marion Hawks Memorial Fund
Grant Holcomb Endowment
Kayser Fund
Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Fund
Nancy R. Turner Endowment for Temporary Exhibitions

Partial support for closed captioning provided by Theatre Development Fund.

*Special pricing for George Eastman Museum members: Free on Thursdays after 5 pm.

Above: Javier Téllez, NOSFERATU (The Undead) (still, detail) 2018. Courtesy of the artist.


Meet the Artist: Javier Téllez in Conversation with W.J.T. Mitchell

Tellez and Mitchell

Left: Javier Téllez, photo courtesy of the artist and Portrait of W.J.T. Mitchell by Luca del Baldo.

Sunday, April 22, 2018 | 2 pm
Artist Javier Téllez discussed his recent commission for MAG, NOSFERATU (The Undead) and the connections between cinema and mental health with the eminent scholar and theorist W. J. T. Mitchell, the 2017-2018 Distinguished Visiting Humanist at the University of Rochester and the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of English, Art History, and Visual Arts at the University of Chicago.

Included with museum admission. Museum admission is FREE for UR faculty, staff and students with current ID.
Sponsored by an anonymous donor. The Distinguished Visiting Humanist program is supported by The Humanities Center, The College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, University of Rochester.

Dryden Theatre | Eastman Museum
April 10–25, 2018
Link to the series
Since Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari premiered in 1920, psychiatric hospitals have been a recurring theme in cinema. While made under the guise of other genres—from horror to melodrama, direct cinema to dystopian science fiction—the mental institution film has almost become a genre in itself, similar to the prison film or military film.

Filmmakers have used mental institutions as an ideal microcosm to study society at large; psychiatric hospitals are presented as isolated scenarios where inmates and staff engage in role-playing normalcy and pathology, authority and deviance, order and disorder.

This film program focuses mainly on the 1960s, a period characterized by important transformations in the care for the mentally ill. In the United States, the Community Mental Health Act was passed in 1963 and continued with the strong impact of anti-psychiatry in parallel with the pharmaceutical revolution. Straight jackets, electroconvulsive therapy, medication, and even lobotomy are the usual suspects in some of the films of this era, which offer a critical view toward psychiatry.

As the psychiatric institution changed during the second half of the twentieth century, its depiction in film consequently changed. Some of the films in the program present a more benevolent view of the psychiatric institution, but always keep a critical eye on the relationships between society and those who are diagnosed with mental illness.

– Javier Téllez, series curator

This film series was organized in collaboration with the Memorial Art Gallery and artist Javier Téllez in conjunction with his exhibition on view at MAG, April 22–June 17.