Madame B: Exploraciones en el Capitalismo Emocional

Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker

22 May - 30 June 2014
Sala U, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellín, Colombia
Sala de Arte, Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia

Two exhibitions, related yet separated in many ways: this is the expository situation in Medellín, Colombia. The two shows share some works and split up the rest. In SALA U, at the public university Universidad Nacional de Colombia, sede Medellín, the large art gallery is devoted to the beginning of Emma’s life up to the final attempt to borrow money to pay her debts. There are also many photographs, beautifully printed, exhibited in a space next to the gallery. There, you already hear Sara Pinheiro’s Emma’s Soundscape, the mysterious, almost abstract sound work that predicts sound motives in the videos. In the photo gallery as well as in the video gallery the space is enormously generous, and yet aesthetically appealing. The delicate balance between overload and emptiness turned out perfect. The famous sound of the animals of Emma’s adolescence recurs in the entire gallery, rivaling the beautiful piano music by Leticia during the Reception scene, gorgeously installed in a corner.

EAFIT is a private university, some 30 minutes away, in a very different neighborhood with a very different student body and public. Here, the first thing you see is a number of display tables. We have exhibited some of Emma’s dresses and jewelry, to make some of her dream of glamour tangible. Also, the clapper board, the script with a page of an important line we hear Homais see to Emma in the gallery next to it, the call sheet, and other small objects that pertain to the practical realization of the scenes in the shoot. Some press from Åland, and even the fake ink - made from licorice - that Emma vomits in the death scene, next to cheerful confetti from the wedding. There are also photos and a large panel that explains the project on the left of a doorway, and the curator Lucrecia Piedrahita’s curatorial concept on the right. Both exhibitions are posted on a huge poster outside of the respective buildings. In EAFIT, some scenes overlap with Sala U, but here the emphasis is on the ending. For the first time we have this projected in a row of seamlessly contiguous projections, flat on the wall. The added serendipitous bonus is the reflections of these images on the floor, as if Emma were already buried. In both exhibitions, Loving Léon is installed exactly as we had envisioned it: in a cinema-like space.

After seeing the videos, you will find the photos similarly picturing the installations in the space. For Sala U we have included, in photo number 8, an interview situation - of which there were many. This time, the director of research of the national university is talking about the exhibition. See photo nr 8. Dr Román Castañeda, himself a physicist, was exceptionally sensitive to the way we try to practice cultural analysis through art making; in other words, to think through image-making. During a radio interview, Dr Castañeda expressed his acute understanding of what we have done with sound in this project. On photo 12 you see a four-screen projection of Scene 6, Passion and Disappointment, the scene that combines the different strands of Emma’s life that all become routine. In the other exhibition, in EAFIT, this scene is displayed in the more immersive manner, with four screens creating a space within which the visitor can sit, move, look and listen at leisure. We did find the four-ways splitscreen also quite effective.In Sala U, the photo gallery was also very lovely. The print quality of the photos is astoundingly high. They are impeccably mounted on board, and look like the artworks they are. The photographers Thijs Vissia and Helinä Hukkataival can be proud of this display.

This is also the case in EAFIT. Here, we have foregrounded especially the display vitrines. The request to bring objects to exhibit what the curator called “the ethnography of the project” came only a few weeks before we were going and cost us some headaches. But the result is gripping. The actual dresses Emma wears in some key scenes, such as the Reception scene, her last hope of an exciting life, and scene 7 where she goes to the opera in fancy dress and jewelry, make the exhibition more material. The videos, as a result, become more immersive, because the visitor has first encountered the actual things before recognizing them in the moving images. Also, the bits and pieces of the process - script, call sheets, time tables, clapper board - help to de-naturalize the images a bit. Towards the end of this photo gallery you see us with the curator, Lucrecia Piedrahita Orrego, and with the two young architects who installed both exhibitions. We are very grateful to all three of them, as well as all those others who have contributed to make this event possible.

Interview with Michelle in el Colombiano. Read it here.
Article in el Mundo about the exhibition. Read it here.

SALA U, Medellín, Colombia

EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia

Photos of the exhibition at Sala U, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Photos of the exhibition at Sala de Arte, EAFIT