Artmaking as Cultural Analysis

Mieke Bal

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Art making as thinking
  • Proposes a new model of synthesis of creative and intellectual work that will benefit practitioners, students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences
  • Merges theoretical and practical considerations in innovative and empowering ways
  • Clarifies difficult concepts through accounts of practice including trauma, agency, identity and affect
  • Closes with a discussion of cultural memory
  • Includes 10 in-depth case studies of films made over 20 years where each case study integrates concrete analysis with theoretical reflection

In this rich, highly illustrated book, Mieke Bal takes us on a journey through the range of her work, using the concept of image-thinking as a point of connection between cultural analysis and artistic practice. Sharing a lifetime of experience of writing about art, making films and installations, as well as curating exhibitions, she shows us how these may be brought into dialogue with insights from theory.

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"Iconomania". Prologue by W. J. T. Mitchell

1. Introduction: Making as Thinking, and vice versaMaterial Image-ThinkingSearching for a TermImage-Thinking for Thought-ImagesThresholds: the merging of Thinking, Imagining, and ImagingOverview of Chapters

Part I: Keys to Intermediality

2. Time-Space: Spatialising Film A Long History of MadnessNalini Malani, Remembering Mad Meg
Pieter Breughel the Elder, Mad MegIntroduction: Beginning Becomes EntrancePolitical Spacetime: Film in the GallerySocial Relevance: Madness to Learn FromForms of Madness BeginningStorybookPicture BookWorking Through and Overcoming Iconography"Schizophrenia": Two Sides to Every Story, Two Figures in Every LifeA Sense of an Ending

3. Voice: who speaks the film, in documentaries? Mille et un joursMarcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the RainIntroduction: Subject, Source, SpeakerMigratory Aesthetics and the Trouble with VoiceVoice and the Documentary TraditionMurmuring Voices: Intimacy and Hybridity WithinPhantom SentencesDispersal of VoiceThe "Other" Tradition and Cultural BelongingTravelling Forking Paths

4. Multi-Tentacled Time: Contemporaneity, Heterochrony, Anachronism for Preposterous History2MOVE (the exhibition) Heringa/van Kalsbeek, Untitled
It’s About Time! Reflections on UrgencyIntroducing Time’s Thought-Image: An OctopusTogetherness in TimeHeterochrony Caught in the ActHeterochrony versus Clock TimeFrom Anachronism to Preposterous HistoryIt’s About Time!

5. Making Up, Making As: Fiction and/in/with Reality Becoming Vera, Reasonable DoubtVarious works of contemporary art Introduction: Think againBecoming Vera in Free Indirect DiscourseThinking in FilmWhy Imaging and/of Thinking MoveMastery, in DoubtFrom Impatience as Lifestyle to Mis-EncountersAfter-Effects and Pre-FigurationsPart II: Special Issues, Special Pleading

6. Showing Trauma? Difficulty and NecessityDon Quijote, A Long History of MadnessLooking at photographsTrauma PredicamentsAlone Within Himself: Drama versus NarrativeImpossible Story-Telling: Toward the CinematicA Way Out?

7. Agency, FacingNothing is Missing (the installation)Bertien van ManenIntroduction: Facing Migration Abandoning Control The Triple Act of FacingIntercultural Ethics: Relationality across GapsPreposterous TimeFacing RestraintFacing SpeechFor Critical Freedom

8. Cultural Citizenship vs. Identity Becoming Vera State of Suspension, Separations, Aleksandr Pushkin, Eugeni Onegin Introduction: Citizenship Political, Colonial, CulturalBecoming French in Cameroon, African in RussiaBecoming PushkinPreposterous Encounters of the Third KindReality in Fiction"My Africa": Memory, Nostalgia, ExileEncountering Cultural CitizenshipImpossible Cultural Citizenship

9. Affect as a Political ToolMadame B (the film, various installations) Doris Salcedo: PalimpsestoIntroduction: The Point of AffectFrom "Madame Bovary c’est moi" to "Emma is Us"Positing WitnessingWhat is Focalisation?An Illness We All Have: Emotional CapitalismEmpathy: Siding with the Dying Affective Things?The Experience of Feeling-LookingThe Anthropomorphic ImaginationAffect, Medium and Mood

10. By Way of Conclusion For Memory: Mis-remembered, Dis-rememberedAccess Denied, A Long History of Madness, Reasonable Doubt Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Where is Where?Introduction: Meandering Through Memory ThoughtMaking Acts of MemoryReunion, Resilience, ResistanceWhat Kinds of Memory Matter?Failing the Past is Failing the PresentFor a Different Mode of Thinking

Author’s FilmographyReferencesSelective Index of Names and TitlesSelective Index of Terms and Concepts

Pictures, images, image-texts, representations, pathos-formulae, inscriptions—the theoretical journeys we have made in art history, film/cinema studies, visual studies and cultural analysis to Mieke Bal’s concept and practice of image-thinking passes through a creatively and theoretically generative half-century transformed at every stage by her own astonishing intellect, fearless questioning and generative boundary-crossing. Embracing and transforming our uses of, and encounters with, video and digital moving image—in its portable and ubiquitous form, from its casual daily recording to its aesthetically daring deployment in contemporary artistic practice, Mieke Bal’s traverse of analysis, film, affect and memory, becoming and wordlessness unsettles divisions. As she dances effortlessly between positions of maker and thinker, analyst and theorist, she creates the thinking image and asksus to see thought in/with/beyond the image. Image-thinking glories in its own contradiction of our tiresome divisions between image and text, narrative and scene, time and recurrence to unfold an amazing story of Mieke Bal’s ever- astonishing creativity an exhibilarating intellectual audacity.
Griselda Pollock, Professor Emerita, University of Leeds
Astonishing, necessary, and beautifully written, Image-Thinking is a brilliant contribution to visual thought, art criticism and curatorial practice. An excellent book that teaches us how to think with images, but also how to write and reflect –as visual artists or writers– about our own works.
Miguel Ángel Hernández, University of Murcia
Mieke Bal is a cultural theorist, critic, video artist and curator. She has published over 40 books, most recently Endless Andness: The Politics of Abstraction According to Ann Veronica Janssens and Thinking in Film: The Politics of Video Installation According to Eija-Liisa Ahtila. Her video project, Madame B, with Michelle Williams Gamaker, is widely exhibited and in 2017 was combined with paintings by Edvard Munch in the Munch Museum in Oslo. After Reasonable Doubt, on René Descartes and Queen Kristina (2016) she made a 16-channel video installation On Quijote: Sad Countenances and the short essay film It’s About Time! Reflections on Urgency.

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