Do you believe that history repeats itself somewhat? That fateful stories of starcrossed lovers, wars and other such intricacies of everyday life never die?
A narratologist at heart, academic Mieke Bal is intrigued by such stories which resonate throughout the ages in her latest exhibition in conjunction with Michelle Williams Gamaker, Cause and Effect. Launched this week during VIVA and curated by VIVA’s artistic director Raphael Vella, the exhibition features clips taken from Madame B, a film directed by Bal and Williams and based upon Gustav Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.
In a lecture held prior to the launch, titled ‘From Novel to Film: Anachronism, Quotation and the Performative Image’, Bal claimed that history is contemporary, in that we ultimately can’t have a present without its past as a pretext. To put it differently, this suggests that as we live our lives, we unconsciously bring in the past as a point of reference. Bal’s use of the Madame Bovary character in the film Madame B and, in turn, Cause and Effect, remarkably illustrates the idea of capitalism in the film, down to its emotional consequences upon the psyche, as it is regurgitated across time and place through Emma Bovary’s insatiable thirst for a wild string of love affairs, gourmet foods and luxury. In essence, Bal interestingly pictured the sheer lust and gluttony that result from the expectations perpetrated by consumer societies through the feminine psyche, by relating this fate to the most basic of human needs: love. Emma, according to Bal, lives on in today’s female consciousness as a symbol of how love is sold to us, as a commodity that can be spent.
All in all, well done on the VIVA team for creating such an insightful space within the programme. The talk itself was very thought provoking, although it was a pity that the sound was poor. It was hard to follow at times, so unfortunately it discouraged people from understanding Bal’s point and later discussing it with her during the Q&A. The exhibition ran well, providing a warm space for dicussion on what was on display, and served a great prelude to the film itself, which was screened at Pjazza Teatru Rjal two days after.
Cause and Effect is open for viewing till October 5th, at the Main Hall of St. James Cavalier, Valletta.