NOTHING IS MISSING is a multi-channel video installation on migration made by the cultural theorist and artist Mieke Bal.
This work reveals the impact on those whose voices are most hidden in the migration story: the mothers, who are left behind when their children seek a better future in Western Europe or North America.
The author will open the exhibition with a lecture that will take place at the UCL Old Refectory at 12pm, introduced by the UCL Vice-Provost Michael Worton (more ...) and chaired by Dr Federica Mazzara. The Old Refectory is on the main UCL Campus at Gower Street.
Special thanks to Professor John Aiken and Elizabeth Morris from the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, to Duygun Erim, and to London Open House.
Description of the exhibition
Visitors are invited to sit in armchairs or on sofas, while around them a number of older women are speaking … but to someone else.
The interlocutors are people who are close to each of the women, intimate family members, but the relationship between them has been interrupted: these family members have left home, migrated. The woman’s children: a grandchild she didn't see grow up; a child-in-law she didn't choose or approve of; the emigrated child; in one case, three generations of ‘lost’ family.
Sometimes you hear the other voice, sometimes not.
The installation creates a monument, a moment, for mothers who were left behind, bereft of what they cherish most.
Communication unfolds between each woman and these intimate others, but all at once: between the women, their family and the visitors. Our armchairs can be moved or turned, just as if we are visiting these on-screen women themselves; concentrating on one and then on another. We are alternating - and choosing. We merge – we step back.
The intimacy we experience, and sometimes a slight uneasiness, is characteristic of the situation. This experience is enhanced not only by the subject discussed - the departure of the children, who have left - but also because the mothers talk to someone close to her.
In purely academic terms this installation presents us with a “Migratory Aesthetic”, in which there is no narrative voice; only narrating voices. While intensely visual, these portraits are without place; no spectacle is offered, there is no scenery, we do not gain any sense of travel to foreign lands. The work does not gratify a desire for beauty. The films engage intimately with the individuals concerned; the sound is diegetic.
The women are filmed close-up, as portraits. The relentlessly permanent image of their faces not only provides a modest monument to the women who suffered these profound losses, but also forces us to look these women in the face, in the eyes; we are drawn to listen to what they have to say, even if to us it is said in a language that is foreign, using expressions that seem strange. Nonetheless we are drawn to them – we relate – and - we know.
The filmmaker sets the shot, switches the camera on, and leaves the room, only to return after the allotted time in a serendipitous gesture of abandoning authority; leaving what happens to chance. The interaction between the two people (of whom only the mother is visible) makes the filming highly performative. Things happen between the speaking parties.
Mieke Bal is a cultural theorist and critic, is Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Professor (KNAW) based at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam. Her areas of interest range from biblical and classical antiquity to 17th century and contemporary art and modern literature, feminism and migratory culture. Her many books include A Mieke Bal Reader (2006), Travelling Concepts in the Humanities (2002) and Narratology (3d edition in press). Mieke Bal is also a video-artist, her experimental documentaries on migration include A Thousand and One Days; Colony and the installation that will display in London Nothing is Missing. Her work is exhibited internationally. Occasionally she acts as an independent curator.
*** NOTHING IS MISSING credits ***
Presented by Cinema Suitcase. Edited by Gary Ward and Zen Marie. Produced
with the support of the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research
(N.W.O.), the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (K.N.A.W.) and the
Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (A.S.C.A.) © Mieke Bal 2006-2007
This page last modified
26 September, 2012
by [UCL Mellon