Landscapes of Madness

21 October 2011 - 29 January 2012
Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, Finland
Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker
Curated by Mia Hannula

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Works exhibited
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This is an exhibition of multiple video installations through which the idea of “madness” is given a variety of interpretations. It is an experiment in audio-visual story-telling. The time-based medium of film has been spatialised. Distinct from cinema, in the exhibition, you the visitor (the “second-person”) are free to make the stories through your own itinerary and pace, engaging the stories, portraits, and scenes on view. As a combination of exhibition and installation, Landscapes of Madness attempts to alter predominant categories within the art world. Meaning is not offered simply to be consumed, but is created by and within each of you.

Landscapes of madness constitute a voyage of discovery that can take any length of time, from several minutes up to several hours depending on your interest. But we hope all visits will be immersive experiences, leading up to engaged and engaging encounters. The exhibition offers experiences both familiar and unfamiliar. In a combination of shock, pleasure, strangeness and beauty, you make a journey through what is usually called “madness”.

Our staged “madness” comes in various forms, which are deeply affecting, hilariously funny, and unexpected sources of wisdom. They have in common the social nature of madness. Both violence and its perverse assaults on individuals and societies generate madness as a defence mechanism. Also, the equally violent refusal of the general public to engage with mad people on an equal footing, contributes to the continuation of madness as social isolation. Sensitive to the complexity of this known but ultimately unknowable state of being, our madness shows several faces: theatrical folly, the resurfacing of trauma inflicted by war and the deep wounds of abuse.

Like madness, landscapes are also social constructs. They have a history. It is in landscapes that wars have been fought, people have been hungry, and destruction has been wrought. We not only present landscapes in the videos; we also create landscapes in the galleries. Far from being compulsory, the loose itinerary is open to returns, circular movements, and individualised pace. You will wander through the spaces and keep encountering new forms of madness—some tragic, some humorous; some play-acted and some “really mad”. This raises the question that you are implicitly requested to ponder: are these people, and the people I encounter mad, do they play the fool, or am I too rigid to allow them to be sane; and what does the answer to that question say about me?