Bas Jan Ader

I’m too sad to tell you 1971

Conceptual artists Ader is known for his films, performance, text and experimentation. The monochrome and silent film that is shown above, ‘I’m too sad to tell you’ is one of Ader’s most well known pieces. I’ve chosen to include this piece first because this film has resonated with me the most and in fact is reminding me a little of my own film I have made: 

“I’m too sad to tell you” is a film that is close to Ader’s face and includes a plain background. Starting with the title, the film goes straight onto the face; at first it seems like just a video of a man’s face but you quickly learn and become apart of watching a man break down in emotions and tears. Throughout the film you do not hear anything, other than the sound of it rolling, which is a little frustrating because I can see his strong expressions and I can almost hear the sounds his crying is making but I, as the viewer, am not given that bit of information. It makes me want more. Also there is a lack of eye-contact which makes me feel slightly uncomfortable- I think this is due to the fact that I’m witnessing a man I don’t know expressing a vulnerable emotion of sadness and despair very close to his face paired with the fact he is not looking at the camera suggests he is unaware of an audience. It’s almost like I am intruding by watching his emotive expression because he is not giving me that recognition that I am here (by acknowledging the camera). However, the way that he is not looking at me directly gives the sense that this emotion is not just about him… I am not seeing into him as a person (the eyes being that portal of communication) and I, the viewer, don’t know anything about what is causing this upset. This leads me to think and feel like I am witnessing the emotion that people in general have, and causes me to analyse myself as to what has made me feel the way the Ader is expressing. I am now realising the importance of the lack of sound- hearing Ader’s voice would make me associate this emotion to him more than how I receive this piece without sound.



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