2018 UQ History of Emotions Lecture in Art History
'Standing Outside the Center: Ecstasy as a Political Act'
Taking my starting point from the dialogue between Louise Bourgeois’ bronze 'Arch of Hysteria' and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s 'Ecstasy of Saint Teresa', I will argue that ecstasy, especially in response to artworks, is a political act in the sense in which I propose that term. In line with Chantal Mouffe, I consider the political the social domain in which culture – cultural events, tensions, and disagreements – happens, with the result being a denser, more communicative social interaction, and a tighter social fabric; one that is alive. Eccentricity is, thus, related to ecstasy; the latter meaning, literally, standing outside the center and the former being or behaving unlike most others, so that the outside limit of that social fabric can extend and expand. Revisiting my earlier essay on “ecstatic aesthetics” as republished in the catalogue for the exhibition 'Ecstasy: Baroque and Beyond', I will foreground the bond between, not only baroque aesthetics, historical as well as contemporary, but also between the conceptions of the body and gender of a devout catholic from the seventeenth century and an active, activist artist of the twentieth.
Mieke Bal is a cultural theorist, critic, video artist, and occasional curator. She works on gender, migratory culture, psychoanalysis, and the critique of capitalism. Her 38 books include a trilogy on political art: 'Endless Andness' (on abstraction), 'Thinking in Film' (on video installation), both 2013, and 'Of What One Cannot Speak' (on sculpture) from 2010. Her work comes together in 'A Mieke Bal Reader' (2006). Her video project 'Madame B', with Michelle Williams Gamaker, is widely exhibited, in 2017 in Museum Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova in Turku, and combined with paintings by Munch in the Munch Museum in Oslo. Her most recent film, 'Reasonable Doubt' – on René Descartes and Queen Kristina (2016) – is currently installed in Brisbane at the UQ Art Museum, and has previously been shown in Kraków, Amsterdam, and Warsaw. She is the founder of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis and was its director for five years. As Professor at Universiteit van Amsterdam she taught literary theory and cultural analysis, and was awarded an honorary appointment at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991–2011).
Presented by the UQ Node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100–1800), in partnership with the University of Queensland Art Museum.
Recorded 15 February 2018.