Mieke Bal
Don Quichotte: Sad Countenances

09 January - 14 February 2020

Mieke Bal’s most recent work of video art, a sixteen-channel installation, establishes connections between Cervantes’ seventeenth century novel Don Quijote and concerns of the present world.

The videos are in colour and with sound, consisting of mostly long shots. The installation’s form aims to invite visitors to enter the fictional world, disposed as scattered, as chaotic as Cervantes’s novel is. With benches to sit down on, they can look as long as they like, and feel affected by what they see and hear. These are situations of trauma, pointlessness, and difficulties of communication. Don Quijote is shown reading and getting affected by what he imagines. His engaging of and somewhat argumentative way of talking to Sancho, the labour in captivity of the slaves, the young woman held responsible for the suicide of a man she rejected: stories, situations, and tableaux vivants.

The scenes are played by professional actors, supplemented by volunteers, in different locations. The dialogues are mostly direct quotations from the novel, but spoken as if spontaneously. Languages are Spanish and French, all subtitled in English. They are not in period costumes, since the present is as much concerned as the past is. But some hints to the past do appear, such as Don Quijote’s sword and shirt.

The form of the exhibition matches the poetics of the novel. There is no linearity, neither chronological nor spatial. This lack of imposed order leaves visitors free and in charge of composing their own stories. The visual chaos, sonic cacophony, and linguistic confusion reflect the contemporary world. Try to experience this display, where you are close to what happens on the screens, as if you were roaming around in a strange city.

Art, the university, and the public domain: the point of this project is to bring these together. The question of art’s potential to help counteract violence’s assault on human subjectivity is examined on the basis of these video installations and photographs. The goal is to encourage empathy.

Through being touched by the installation’s form, viewers can learn from it for dealing with their own experiences of the violence contemporary society can generate, their own as well as those hinted at by others in their surroundings.

This exhibition is open 10am-4pm Monday to Saturday at our Blenheim Walk Gallery.

Opening night: Wednesday 8 January 5-7pm
Free entry. Refreshments will be served and everyone is welcome. Booking not required.

Public lecture: Wednesday 8 January 4-5pm
'Thought-Images and Image-Thinking: Engaging (with) Trauma'. Lecture chaired by Professor Griselda Pollock. Booking not required.

Mieke Bal, She,Too, Zoraida looks out with frustrated longing, or in catatonic stupor, 2019. Photo Ebba Sund.Image: Mieke Bal, She,Too, Zoraida (Nafiseh Mousavi) looks out with frustrated longing, or in catatonic stupor, 2019. Photo Ebba Sund.

  • 09 January - 14 February 2020
  • Blenheim Walk Gallery, Leeds Arts University, Leeds, LS2 9AQ