Shared Projects

“The Blue Train” and “Madame B. Explorations in Emotional Capitalism”


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31 January–23 February 2014
Gasthaus zum Baeren/ Museum Baerengasse Zuerich

Vera Frenkel and Mieke Bal

1–2 February:
Saturday 14–19
Sunday 11–13

7–23 February:
Fridays 19–21
Saturdays/Sundays 12–15

Vera Frenkel: The Blue Train
Vera Frenkel’s video-photo-text installation, The Blue Train, inspired by images in the Black Star Archive and the Werner Wolff fonds at Ryerson University, centres on a key phase of the journey of escape taken by the artist’s mother at the outbreak of World War II.  Via a combination of stills, drawings and video, the journey is traced through the minds of passengers with whom the experience was shared. The narrative of escape will be accompanied by the witnessing narrative of photo-journalist Werner Wolff on his return to Germany in the first days after the war.

ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive (2008/9)
ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive is a work about a city cut off from its lake and in trouble, where ubiquitous scaffolding serves as metaphor for both aspiration and loss.
Following a chance encounter, Vera Frenkel has drawn together documentary and fictional elements to create a work about a stranger she barely knew but still finds compelling – a collector of scaffolding images –– fusing praise and lament into a video ballad for a changing city. The narrative unfolds in an interplay of two voices; a letter from one woman being read by the other.

Mieke Bal: Madame B. Explorations in Emotional Capitalism
The project explores the unspeakable but tenacious remnants of romantic sensibility that still hold back women today, combined with the emotional tentacles of capitalism that bring families to bankruptcy. Inspired by Flaubert’s 1856 masterpiece Madame Bovary, we examine the unspoken cultural politics of the cultivation of craving. In this project, we aim to highlight what contemporary culture still silences. The work attempts to show how Flaubert was in many ways a post-modernist and feminist. It explores the way dominant ideologies – specifically capitalism and its association with emotions, and romantic love with its commercial aspects – are still rampant after 150 years. The Madame B Project consists of two parts, a video installation and  talk on this subject as a screening.

Vera Frenkel
Multidisciplinary artist Vera Frenkel lives and works in Toronto. Her installations, performances, videos, and multimedia projects have been presented, notably, at the documenta IX, Kassel, the Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; the Power Plant, Toronto, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Vera Frenkel has been guest professor, artist in residence, and visiting speaker in universities and museums across Europe and North America. Her works address the forces at work in human migration, the learning and unlearning of cultural memory, and the ever-increasing bureaucratization of experience. She is currently preparing a version of The Blue Train for the Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin and a major exhibition for MoCCA (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art), Toronto.

Mieke Bal
Mieke Bal, a cultural theorist and critic, is 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. Mieke Bal is also a video artist, her internationally exhibited documentaries on migration include Separations, State of Suspension, Becoming Vera and the installation Nothing is Missing. With Michelle Williams Gamaker she made feature film Mère Folle, a theoretical fiction about madness, and related exhibitions (2012). Her current project Madame B: Explorations in Emotional Capitalism, also with Michelle, is exhibited worldwide.

Supported by
STADT ZÜRICH KULTUR