Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker. Madame B - Explorations in Emotional Capitalism

ms1, Więckowskiego 36 street, Lodz, Poland

December 6th, 2013 – February, 9th 2014

Madame B project created by Mieke Bal & Michelle Williams Gamaker is a work about the link between capitalism and romance. By creating deliberate anachronism and intertextuality, the works explore the bond between capitalism and emotions, and the commercial aspects of romantic love. In so doing, they show how these relationships persist fully 150 years after Gustave Flauberte's Madame Bovary was released; how Flaubert was in many ways a post-modernist and feminist.

Emma, a talented and ambitious young woman, seeks an escape from her father's farm to a life of glamour, passion, and freedom. She spots what seems an outlet in the form of Charles, a local country doctor, but the move turns sour as the tedium of everyday life with a dull man sets in. She seeks passion and embarks on affairs, while her attention to the allure of
money and consumerism, spending lavish amounts on extravagant products. When her ruinous debt leads to her possessions being auctioned off, Emma attempts to recoup money or secure loans from businessmen, former friends and lovers. She fails, and in desperation takes her own life.

The Madame B exhibition offers a radical reimagining of Flaubert's political stance for the present global culture. The pieces explore different visual modes, demonstrating how they have the power to create an immersive experience in which political dilemmas can be considered with reason, affect, the senses and the body alike. The economic and amorous adventures that lead to Emma's demise are largely triggered by the audio-visual stimuli that surround her. Fragmented into the 19 screens of this exhibition, visitors can confront the fact that the life of a woman of 150 years ago can as well happen today.



Marja Skaffari: Emma
Thomas Germaine: Charles, Rodolphe, Léon
Mathieu Montanier: Homais
Helinä Hukkataival: Charles' Mother
Matts Stenlund: priest
Astrid Törneroos: Berthe
William Stenius: Justin


Christopher Wessels: cinematography
Sara Pinheiro: sonologist (sound recording and design)
Milja Korpela: hair and make-up artist
Remco Hekker: colour grading
B camera: Michelle Williams Gamaker
Script: Mieke Bal, based on Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary
Script additions: Neal Markage, Michelle Williams Gamaker

MIEKE BAL (Heemstede, 1946), a cultural theorist and critic, has been Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Professor. She is the author of over thirty books. As a video artist, she makes experimental documentaries on migration and recently has begun exploring fiction. The project A Long History of Madness, with Michelle Williams Gamaker, has yielded a 120’ feature film and a series of video installation pieces. These have been exhibited nine times in one year, among other places in the Aboa Vetus – Ars Nova Museum in Turku, and in the Freud Museum London. Occasionally she acts as an independent curator.

MICHELLE WILLIAMS GAMAKER (UK, 1979) is a video and performance artist. Her work varies from single frame portraits to more complex renderings of reality via documentary, fiction films and video installations. She has exhibited internationally since 2001; and Madame B (2013) is her latest work with long-term collaborator Mieke Bal. Williams Gamaker completed her Ph.D in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in 2012. Her upcoming solo work is a new installation, Black Matter Earth, a post-romantic re-imagining of the female characterisations of the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger: Black Narcissus (1947), A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and Gone to Earth (1950). She lives and works between London and Amsterdam.


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