Detour de Force presents the world of thoughtographer Ted Serios, a charismatic Chicago bell hop who, in the mid-1960’s produced hundreds of Polaroid images from his mind. Constructed from 16mm documentation of Serios’s sessions and audio recordings of Serios speaking with Dr. Jule Eisenbud, the Denver psychiatrist who championed his abilities, the film is more ethnography than biography, portraying the social and scientific environments in which Serios thrived. The film foregrounds the state of image and sound recording technologies of the period as essential to the emergence of Serios’s psychic photography. It is also a document of the filmmaker’s encounters with the archival materials themselves. The film enjoys a rich sound environment by Ernst Karel, Kyle Bruckmann and Guiseppe Ielasi.
“Something a bit more documentary than avant-garde closed the third Wavelengths shorts program, Rebecca Baron’s Detour de force. This found footage film pulled from the University of Maryland archives organizes and narrates a story through 16mm, Polaroid, and video records from the 1960s of experiments with Ted Serios. For those like myself unfamiliar with Serios, the beginning of Baron’s film is exceedingly odd: official looking men and one very unofficial, who will later be revealed to be Ted, playing with camera gizmos and particularly an early Polaroid instant camera. Ted convulses himself, and the others, straining to get some proper angle, document it, and behind them are watching 16mm and television cameras. What is this, records of performance art? No: Ted Serios may have been psychic, able, as these doctors surrounding him try to test, to expunge images from his mind onto the negative in the portable cameras. Baron’s studious but still awe-struck revelation of these amateur testing scenarios, cannily using the latest recording technology to try to document, prove, and understand this inhuman phenomenon, despite the scientific impetus behind the records achieves an uncanniness as in much old or amateur footage of that which cannot be explained. Sometimes—often, even—a camera’s presence only serves to further mystify rather than reassure.” -Daniel Kasman, MUBI