In relation to the exhibition “Emma & Edvard: Love in the Time of Loneliness” that I have curated for the Munch Museum, I will distill one of the many aspects of curating as a cultural act. Although establishing connections and resonances among art works is the most obvious aspect of curating, I want to take this one step further. Once such connections are put in place, by means of skillful and artistically meaningful juxtapositions, confrontational oppositions, and convergences, I also find an important aspect of curating to make these aspects contribute to, but not as the only means of focusing of the viewer’s attention. All the preceding aspects, applying wall texts and captions or refraining from doing so, the placement of works, and additionally, also the creation of the possibility of look durationally can do this. Looking durationally is looking longer than is usual, which can be stimulated for example by providing seating and establishing groupings while at the same time, giving each work ample space. As a result, the visitor’s response can become so intense, detailed, and surface-oriented as much as meaning-seeking, that the act of looking results in seeing ‘with a magnifying glass’. In this lecture, I will give a few examples from the exhibition of places and works placed there, where such durational looking leads to a vision of the art works that is substantially different from the ‘first sight’ that is too often the only sight.
Mieke Bal is a cultural theorist, critic, occasional curator and video artist. She works on feminism, migratory culture, psychoanalysis, and the critique of capitalism. Her books include a trilogy on political art: Endless Andness (on abstraction) and Thinking in Film (on video installation), both 2013, Of What One Cannot Speak (2010, on sculpture) and A Mieke Bal Reader (2006). In 2016 appeared In Medias Res: Inside Nalini Malani’s Shadow Plays (Hatje Cantz), and in Spanish, Tiempos trastornados on the politics of visuality (AKAL 2016). 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 (with a book). Her most recent film, Reasonable Doubt, on René Descartes and Queen Kristina, premiered in Kraków, Poland, on 23 April 2016. www.miekebal.org