At the Edvard Munch Museum in Oslo, the works of Edvard Munch is now juxtaposed against Gustave Flaubert’s groundbreaking novel Madame Bovary.
Two masters come face to face when Munch’s pictures are set against video installations and make us reflect upon how we view each other in social situations and question what happens when we are denied visual dialogue.
For the first time, at the exhibition “Emma & Edvard – Love in the Time of Loneliness”, the works of Edvard Munch are being exhibited together with a comprehensive video installation. Madame B (2014) created by Michelle Williams Gamaker together with the internationally renowned culture theorist, artist and curator Mieke Bal, who is also curator of this exhibition.
The installation comprises eight video installations together with around 75 of Munch’s works – both well-known works as well as rarely exhibited paintings and graphic works. Madame B is a modern interpretation of Flaubert’s 1856 novel. This exhibition displays how the modernity of Munch’s works is brought into focus.
“It’s a great opportunity, and a great challenge to curate an exhibition out of the collection
of Munch’s paintings at the Munch Museum in Oslo, says the Dutch cultural theorist, video artist and critic Mieke Bal. “Munch is one of the greatest modernist painters, so different from the cliché idea of modernism,” she adds.
The different halls of the exhibition are linked to themes surrounding the subject of social loneliness and the cinematic form of expression. Loneliness is often caused by a lack of communication and manifests itself through a socially awkward exchange of sideways glances.
“Emma & Edvard is actually a triple project,” explains Mieke Bal, “curating an exhibition of Munch, a fabulous artist I never really got to know, but now I will. Include the 19-screens, 8-scenes exhibition Madame B Installation pieces, that Michelle Williams Gamaker and I made, and have already exhibited in many places, as you can see here: Madame B. And instead of the traditional catalogue, I will write a book, to accompany the dual exhibition.”
The Wedding of a Bohemian, one of Munch’s great works, provides a good example of failed communication: the bride is isolated in her loneliness despite being surrounded by seven men. The painting is exhibited in close proximity to a wedding scene in the Madame B video installation showing newlywed Emma B – ruefully and in desperation – moving amongst the guests, who are busily occupied gossiping about her.
The merciless self-portrait of Edvard Munch is Bal’s favorite painting of loneliness (see above). The sagging shoulders and interiorized gaze speak volumes to the expression of loneliness; the painting almost becomes an emblem of that psych-social state.
The direct (audio-)visual interplay between Munch’s art and Flaubert’s texts provides us with the opportunity to make up our own stories.
Feature image (on top) Edvard Munch: Wedding of the Bohemians
The exhibition runs through 17 April 2017.
Now in Oslo: Love in the Time of Loneliness, written by Tor Kjolberg