The film A Long History of Madness goes to Ankara, and I am going along for the ride. In addition to a screening of the film in this dynamic festival, I will be giving a masterclass on the concept that underlies the film, the “genre” of the theoretical fiction - an idea Michelle and I invented, in the wake of Freud, to indicate a fictional artifact that helps us theorise. And, while I am there, I will also give a workshop with the help of our film Becoming Vera. In addition, the Goethe Institute will be hosting a small exhibition, “What culture Silences” - the longer title is “Of What One Cannot Speak: What Culture Tries to Silence” but I like the shorter one, proposed by the organisers, much better. All this was initiated by Ersan Ocak and Ahmet Gurata, from Bilkent University. Ersan (left), Ahmet (right): big thanks!
left and right: Liam Sharkey and Amy Walsh, installing the show; middle: Niamh Ann Kelly who initiated it.
Yes, it is almost overwhelming. Barely ten days after the exhibition in Turku, which opened ten days after the one in Saint Petersburg, now a smaller but lovely exhibition has opened in the Broadcast Gallery in Dublin. The evening before, Wednesday November the 16th, I gave a lecture about, and then screened, A Long History of Madness. For a description and images of the exhibition Facing It: Imaging Madness, which opened on Thursday the 27th, see the page Exhibitions. My whirlwind continues: I am currently in Bologna, in the building where Umberto Eco is still director if the program of Semiotic Studies. I am giving three seminars in that program, one around each of the films A Thousand and One Days, Becoming Vera, and Elena. The evening of the third day I will give a public lecture and screen A Long History.
As you can imagine, after this I am giving myself a short break in Paris. After which… on to the next small exhibition, this time in Ankara. Please keep following the adventures of the Mère Folle project on the Exhibition page of this site. I will post images as soon as I am there. Meanwhile, the Turkish film festival Festival on Wheels is screening the film, and organising several events, such as the exhibition in the Goethe Institute, a Masterclass after the screening, and a workshop with screening of Becoming Vera at Bilkent University. The photo below is almost a dim memory now, although it was just last week!
The film will appear in a new context. It is the first screening in Portugal. I have always admired the Gulbenkian Foundation and its exquisite collection of art, both old masters and modern. Its buildings are magnificent, not to speak of the beautifully landscaped gardens. Thanks to the proximity of Salcedo’s work, the political and the artistic ambitions of our project will be framed as inseparable. But especially…
I am thrilled to see Doris Salcedo’s new work, on which I ended my book on her art without having seen it yet. Salcedo’s art is among the most profound bodies of art that address the viewer’s sense of social responsibility without in the least being moralistic, and without representing the suffering she seeks to bring to our awareness. I feel a great affinity with her endeavor, and in spite of the wide divergences between her work and our film, there is a similarity in purpose: to make the unseen visible, and the invisible tangible.
Thursday October 30th was the big day: the exhibition Landscapes of Madness opened at the Museum Aboa Vetus Ars Nova in Turku. The 16 video installation pieces, in a total of 21 screens, were disposed according to a spatial concept over 7 galleries. The description of the works is in Landscapes of Madness.
The build-up of the exhibition was masterfully managed by the museum coordinator, Pamela Andersson, and the curator Mia Hannula was clearly aware of the root “care”in the word curating. Together, they were a great team. Michelle and I were very moved by the commitment of everyone in the museum and the beauty of the result. On the first photo, you see the reconstruction of the historical inmate’s cell in the psychiatric hospital on the island of Seili. On the chest of drawers we had placed the video shot in the actual cell, to create a mise-en-abyme effect.On the second photo on the armachair, Marja Skaffari, the actress playing Sissi, watches “The Space In-Between. In the background, Mervi Appel, who plays Morgue, and Mia Hannula, the curator, who plays Aurora.
I also add a photo from the very extensive press we received.
Beijing, Forum on Dutch-Chinese Cultural Relations
At the end of August I made my first trip to China. A meeting of Chinese and Dutch academics in the cultural disciplines had been convened to discuss the possibilities of collaboration. The meeting was meant to explore the specificity of intercultural relations in the era of globalisation. Preceding the two-days meeting of intense and dense academic work were three days of visits to the great monuments of this dazzling city. From the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City – so well known from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor – to the contemporary art scene, we ran around at high speed to benefit as much as possible from this short trip.
Three days after returning my head is still full of the impressions. Our Chinese hosts were incredibly friendly and open-minded. The food was amazing. The places we visited were stunning. The lectures were unequal, but mostly worth hearing. The primary cultural difference seemed to be academic. Our delegates were ASCA-trained, which meant that their talks had that balance I am so fond of in theorising, analysing, and going back-and-forth between general and particular, as well as literal and metaphorical levels of meaning – in fact, quite a good demonstration of what the meeting was supposed to achieve.
A truly intercultural moment occurred when I showed, after my lecture on the project Nothing is missing, one of the videos of the project (Elena). A vehement debate followed; some of the Chinese participants were upset, and many, including some of the Dutch, felt uneasy. One participant found the filming of a mother’s grief unethical. Our colleague Maaike Bleeker hit the nail on the head when she said the unease we felt was not due to an unethical filming but to the fact that the film showed something we’d rather not see nor know about. Later, it became clear that what upset some of the Chinese participants, was not to see the mother’s emotion (the issue of voyeurism) but that her son exposed her to the viewer in this vulnerability. The focus on the interviewing son, rather than the emotionally expressive mother, seemed to us to point to a cultural difference.
View of the Forbidden City, Beijing
The Dutch delegation and two of the Chinese organisers
The new Mieke Bal website is here! I decided it was time for a change. The new site, beautifully designed by it’s a lab, has a stylish new look, but also and more importantly, much more information…
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