Don Quijote: Sad Countenances
Småland Museum, Växjö, Sweden
29 October - 31 December, 2019
Sad Countenances / Sorgsna Miner
Thanks to the collective efforts of many, especially of Niklas Salmose, professor of literature in English, and Nicolas Hansson, chief curator at the museum, the project premiered on October 2019 in the Småland Museum, Växjö,Sweden. Here are those two I affectionately call “the Nickies” - Nicolas talking with the fabulous student-volunteer who was the de facto technician. They were all three fantastic, with vision and generosity, commitment and solidarity.
Scroll through the gallery on the right to see the following images:
First: Niklas introducing me for the pre-opening lecture, which was meant to bring the public and the academy closer together, by means of making something for the public that is still based on research.
Then, Nicolas, talking with Monika Borduz, one of the four fabulous student volunteers who helped during installation. Monika was particularly indispensable. She turned out the de facto technician, solving problems none of us could handle.
The exhibition looks like this, in a relatively dark space with dark-red brick walls. The video monitors are places in pairs, back-to-back, in a purposely chaotic order. Each monitor has a bench in front of it. These are painted in black, to enhance the sombre atmosphere.
The photos below were made during the opening. You can see the intense engagement with the screens and photographs, as well as the desire to communicate and talk to one another. Unless otherwise indicated, they were made by photographer Ebba Sund.
Here, they talk, clearly commenting on Ebba’s brilliant poster photograph.
And then they sit watching. The “durational look” is very important to my conception of looking at art with a dialogic engagement.
In the next photograph, Lars Elleström, director of the Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, one of the main sponsors of the shoot we did in May in Växjö, appears also quite engaged.
Even the youngster Ennio Salmose, Niklas’s son, properly dressed for the day - it was Halloween - seemed very interested and spent a lot of time in the exhibition. Here you see him with his mother Katrin.
The next image is used prominently in the exhibition in Murcia. Its ambiguity is gripping: is the Captive on his way to escape, or trapped again, by the hard stone walls?
To preserve a sense of the exhibition in movement, for those who cannot visit it, or who did but would like a memory of it, above is a short video tour made during the opening, also made by Ebba Sund, a highly recommended independent photographer and video maker.
I want to honour here the group of students who, in Murcia, spent three hours enacting weeping, dressed in heat-attracting black, in the scene “Woman as an anti-Suicide Bomb”, in 46 degrees Celcius without shade. They are burying their friend who has committed suicide because Marcela refused to marry him. A “no means no” situation, of present-day relevance, literally drawn from Cervantes’s novel.
And also, Amanda and Matilda, two of the other student volunteers in Växjö, who devoted several days to helping install. They still seem engaged enough, on this iPhone snapshot I made, to watch, listen and talk.
Nafiseh Mousavi, a PhD student in Centre for Intermedial and Multimodel Studies, is a bit my discovery of an actress. She pays the woman held captive by her doting father, in the scene I had dreamt up during my stay at the Teleborg Castle, so that the three planned scenes on captivity because four. She is here watching a screen, but in the video “She, Too” she brilliantly enacts a traumatic young women.
Pedro Ata, also a PhD student, is here sitting on the right watching, but in the video plays the dictatorial father, alias the owner of the slaves. He had to be made up as decades older than he is. This was a challenge for make-up artist Leticia Vitral she amply managed to meet.
Too many people contributed to this to give more than this succinct sense of the collaborative effort. The wish to connect the academy and the public through art was clearly something many people, staff and students, at Linnaeus University and the Småland Museum shared. I hope the process of pursuing such integration will continue long after the exhibition is finished.
The book published - by Niklas Salmose - can be purchased for a very reasonable price at Niklas@trolltrumma.se
This contains descriptions and photographs of all the episodes and five essays I wrote on issues such as “artistic research”, a concept I modify to “image-thinking”, the problematic of showing trauma, which is both impossible and indispensable; the connections and differences between criticism and critique; the politics of looking, and “Facing the Face”, on identity in relation to acting and to cultural heritage.