Bas Jan Ader

I’m too sad to tell you


The opening work of the exhibition is Bas Jan Ader’s black and white silent film I’m too sad to tell you, in which we see the artist crying. As the title suggests, Ader never revealed the reason for his sadness to anyone. On the one hand, it is a very intimate piece; we manage to see an emotional reaction people usually hide, especially men. However, it is known that Ader induced his crying just for filming. So, is this crying sincere or not?

How does it make us feel that the person crying is a man? In Western society, strength is considered one of the main masculine qualities; therefore, in the context of the feminism of his time – and that of the second wave – the video could be understood as internally breaking from the traditional perception of masculinity and related stereotypes, so to speak. But how would we regard it if it was a woman crying? Would the crying strike us as heroic, vulnerable and soft at the same time, or rather – hysterical? I don’t believe any of these answers represent the whole truth about Ader and his sadness.

The extent to which masculinity and femininity are biologically predetermined is a matter of much debate. However, it is clear that to a large extent gender stereotypes are socially constructed. The role and identity that someone has chosen for themselves in society may not tell us anything about what is going on inside them.