IT’S ABOUT TIME: Trying an Essay Film

Authors

  • Mieke Bal University of Amsterdam

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.10.02

Keywords:

essay, figural, form, meandering, mutuality, partiality, trying

Abstract

This essay is about the essay, a form (as Adorno called it) of thought alive that is partial in the two senses of the word: subjective and fragmented. Thinking as social, performative, and always un-finished; as dialogic. Through the mythical figure of Cassandra, who could foresee the future but was cursed to be never believed, I tried to “figure,” make a figural shape for the thoughts on the indifference of people towards the imminent ecological disaster of the world. At the invitation of Jakub Mikurda of the Łódź Film School to come and make an essay film, within one week, but with the participation of many great professionals, I was able to create, at least in the first draft, the essay film IT’S ABOUT TIME!

The ambiguity of the title suggests the bringing together of my thoughts about time, in relation to history in its interrelation with the present, and, as the exclamation mark intimates, the urgency to do something. The former is enacted by a tableau vivant of Cassandra’s lover Aeneas as Caravaggio’s John the Baptist, with a contemporary painting by David Reed shifting over it; and by interactions with two paintings by Ina van Zyl. The urgency is presented in many of the dialogues, quoted from various sources, especially Christa Wolf’s novel Cassandra. I argue that “thinking in film,” with film as a medium for thought, is what the essay film’s foremost vocation is. Through a reflection on “thought-images,” which I see as the result of “image-thinking,” I also argue for the intellectual gain to be had from “essaying” thought artistically.

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Author Biography

Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam

Mieke Bal is a cultural theorist, critic, video artist and curator. She focuses on gender, migratory culture, psychoanalysis, and the critique of capitalism. Her 41 books include a trilogy on political art: Endless Andness (on abstraction), Thinking in Film (on video installation), both 2013, Of What One Cannot Speak (on sculpture, 2010). Some of her work comes together in A Mieke Bal Reader (2006). Her book Emma & Edvard Looking Sideways: Loneliness and the Cinematic, 2017, which accompanied an exhibition at the Munch Museum Oslo, demonstrates her integrated approach to academic, artistic and curatorial work.

After documentaries on migratory culture, she made “theoretical fictions”: A LONG HISTORY OF MADNESS, on trauma, and MADAME B, on “emotional capitalism” with Michelle Williams Gamaker. Her film REASONABLE DOUBT, on René Descartes and Queen Kristina, explores the social aspects of thinking (2016). Currently, she exhibits a sixteen-channel video work DON QUIJOTE: SAD COUNTENANCES.

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Published

2020-11-24

How to Cite

Bal, M. (2020). IT’S ABOUT TIME: Trying an Essay Film. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (10), 27-48. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.10.02