Mieke Bal – Imaging Madness

Image from Mieke Bal's A Long History Of Madness
6.30pm Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Room 4027, Aungier Street Campus
Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin


The next edition of the in|discussion series of talks, hosted by DIT, features cultural critic and theorist, Mieke Bal, who is based at the Amsterdam School For Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Her interests range from biblical and classical antiquity to 17th century and contemporary art and modern literature, feminism and migratory culture, and madness. Her many books include Of What One Cannot Speak: Doris Salcedo’s Political Art (2010), Loving Yusuf (2008), A Mieke Bal Reader (2006), Travelling Concepts in the Humanities (2002) and Narratology (3d edition 2009). She is also a video-artist, making experimental documentaries on migration. Occasionally she acts as an independent curator.

Mostly with the collective Cinema Suitcase, Mieke makes films that seek to facilitate the self-narration of their subjects, encountered on the basis of intimacy, rather than constructing their stories for them. This approach enhances the performative quality of filmmaking as a collective process. The films refrain from deploying narrative voice-over and only contain set sound. Stories are not chronological but emerge from associative links, constituting a kind of ‘free indirect style.’ These include Separations 83 min. (2009); State of Suspension 82 min. (2008); Becoming Vera 53 min. 2008; Un Trabajo Limpio 21 min. (looped) 2007; Colony 30 min. 2007; Access Denied, 31 min. 2005; Mille et un jours, 45 min. 2004. She also made Nothing is Missing, a multiple-screen video installation, 25-35 minutes (5-15 channels) 2006-present.


Her first fiction feature, A Long History of Madness, with Michelle Williams Gamaker, about psychoanalysis and madness in cultural history, is currently being presented internationally. Also with Michelle, she made a video installation Anachronisms, commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.


I am interested in how images help articulate and embody thought, in the case at hand, thought about forms of “otherness” that cut through ethnic, sexual, religious, age- and other groups, namely, “madness”. I contend that images can perform an equivalent of speech acts; that they can respond (“speak back”) to the look cast onto them, and that they can entice viewers to theorize. They are performative. They do something; they act. I call such “speaking images”, which speak back, resist (parts of) my interpretation of them, and make me think, “theoretical objects.”


As an inter-disciplinary, international scholar, I have taken this view one step further when, in an inter-ship for which I have not yet a name, I began to supplement my research into contemporary (migratory) culture with filmmaking, as another, more complex, closer, synaesthetic and intimate form of (audio-visual) analysis. At the heart of the film I will present lies the question if it is possible to “image” madness. Is there an iconography of madness, and if so, how can it avoid stereotyping; and if not, how else can one create a convincing image of madness? And what socio-cultural purpose can such images serve? The lecture is both an autonomous experiment in thought, and an introduction to the film A Long History of Madness. (Bal & Williams Gamaker 2011) – Mieke Bal


The lecture, Imaging Madness, (40mins) will be followed by a screening of the film, A Long History of Madness (120mins).


All are welcome to this free event.
To secure your place, please book by email: indiscussionadp@gmail.com


in|discussion a forum to discuss contemporary issues and current research in typography, art, design, material culture, critical theory, pedagogy, philosophy, society and technology.
Updates on the lecture series at: http://indiscussionadp.blogspot.com/