top of page
Light Exhibition


Don Quijote | Chapter 12: Pointless Altruism

Multi-lingual with English, French and Spanish subtitles, 16 channel video installation, 2019

12: Pointless Altruism

In spite of good intentions, “doing good” is not so easy to define. This episode strings together a number of small actions of useless helping. In some sense, this scene can be seen as a summary or mise-en-abyme of the novel, including its falling apart in many different mini- episodes. Full of energy, always trying to assist others, it seems he can only be active and feel alive when acting on behalf of others, not himself. Don Quijote roams around in a world he does not understand. Out of the blue he tries to help people who don’t need his help. Everything he sees makes him worry. There is something hectic about his behaviour. His body language conveys madness, despair, and a feeling of un-belonging. Yet, the situations he aims to repair appear quite ordinary, even if they do have an edge of danger.

He addresses and even physically attacks a man who seems to be risking his baby by being distracted talking on the telephone. A woman walking a dog is told that the dog is not comfortable on the leash. When cleaning up garbage that overflows the bins, he accidentally makes the mess worse. When he is protecting someone who has been wounded from more damage, he hurts the injured young student. Entering a clothing store, he tries to rearrange the display, as if he knew better what is appealing to shoppers. And more. What is normal, what is mad? Go figure!

The problem this episode foregrounds is the unbalanced relationship between individual and social existence. Don Quijote take on such arbitrary issues because his sense of self and of his mission overrules the obvious fact that those others he tries to help have their own individuality. The scene also makes us reflect on the fine line between charitable and aggressive behaviour. Imposing his view of the situations he becomes dictatorial.

Image: Luz Bañón

bottom of page