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Mieke Bal: Art’s Agency: On Being Flabbergasted
Art’s Agency: On Being Flabbergasted
(p. 105 – 132)

Mieke Bal

Art’s Agency: On Being Flabbergasted

PDF, 28 pages

  • rhetoric / elocution
  • artistic practice
  • contemporary art
  • resistance
  • global ecology
  • politics

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Mieke Bal

Mieke Bal is a co-founder of ASCA, the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis and develops interdisciplinary approaches to cultural artifacts and their potential effects. She is an internationally renowned cultural theorist, critic, video artist and curator, and the recipient of five honorary doctorates. She focuses on gender, migratory culture, psychoanalysis, and the critique of capitalism. Her forty-odd 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, 2010). Her early work comes together in A Mieke Bal Reader (2006). In 2016 appeared In Medias Res: Inside Nalini Malani’s Shadow Plays. Emma & Edvard Looking Sideways: Loneliness and the Cinematic, accompanying the exhibition she curated at the Munch Museum in 2017, demonstrates her integrated approach to academic, artistic and curatorial work. After eighteen video documentaries on migratory culture, she began making “theoretical fictions.” A Long History of Madness, with Michelle Williams Gamaker, argues for a more humane treatment of psychosis, and was exhibited in a site-specific version in the Freud Museum in London. Madame B, also with Michelle, was combined with paintings by Edvard Munch in the Munch Museum in Oslo (2017). Her later film Reasonable Doubt, on René Descartes and Queen Kristina, explores the social and audio-visual aspects of the process of thinking (2016). She is currently exhibiting a sixteen-channel video work Don Quixote: tristes figuras. Her latest film, It’s About Time! Reflections on Urgency was produced in Poland, in 2020.
Sara Alonso Gómez (ed.), Isabel J. Piniella Grillet (ed.), ...: NO Rhetoric(s)

This volume maps some of the territories where points of resistance can be located and where art’s resistant potential becomes relevant once again. "NO Rhetoric(s): Versions and Subversions of Resistance in Contemporary Global Art" focuses on a neuralgic issue which was intensely debated during the last three decades, but has rarely become a topic of its own. It offers an updated way which art presents itself as an agent of resistance, whether in a mere rhetorical stance or as an effective critical strategy. In the face of general discourse of revolt and insurrection that is highly fashionable today, it is necessary to ask whether the gesture of ‘negation’ still yields an emancipatory potential. Struggling between NO rhetoric and NO to rhetoric, the artistic and the political field permanently interfere with each other; sometimes they merely overlap, while at other moments they strongly insist on demarcating themselves. Nonetheless it remains to be seen more precisely of what their respective critical forces and agonality consist. In this sense, the book contributes to a deeper understanding of the different logics of resistance at play between art and the political, as expressed by Jacques Rancière in his distinction between “the politics of the becoming-life of art and the politics of the resistant form.”


This volume provides a diverse array of voices and essays from the academic and artistic field that present theoretical approaches as well as study cases. By juxtaposing them, it encompasses both the complexity and diversity of artistic practices within a global instituting framework that seems to capitalize on different political streams. The reader will find contributions on sexual dissidence, ecology and the Anthropocene, geopolitics of the digital age and institutional critique. The authors, artists and scholars from different disciplines share their desire to shed some light on how art approaches these urgent issues.


Contributors: Sara Alonso Gómez, Mieke Bal, Zach Blas, Katharina Brandl, Nancy Garín, Kendell Geers, Ben Grosser and Geert Lovink, Gelare Khoshgozaran, Federico Luisetti, Charlotte Matter, Isabel J. Piniella Grillet, Nadia Radwan, Fiona Siegenthaler, David Tenorio, and Jaime Vindel.