Inter-Facing. The ethics and politics of migratory aesthetics in Mieke Bal’s video installation Nothing is missing


Mia Hannula

Cultural theorist and experimental film-maker Mieke Bal explores the effects of global migration in everyday life and the creative possibilities provided by the constant interaction of different cultures. Migratory aesthetics refers to her varied collaborative projects in different contexts. Migratory aesthetics is also an important analytical concept through which to explore the relations between aesthetics, ethics and politics. The article focuses on Bal’s multi-channel video installation Nothing is missing (2006–2008) which consists of stories by mothers who have lost close contact to their children due to emigration. In the video recordings, each mother faces someone close to their emigrated child. The videos are exhibited in the living room installation, where the visitors are invited to sit down and take part in the conversation around them. The stories broaden to wider discussions on the cultural, social and political effects of migration.

By analyzing the installation and the theorization of it by Bal herself, the article explores how art can be part of social and cultural processes and have ethical and political impact. The central question is: what kind of ethical and political implications and possibilities as well as empowered dimensions the stories told from culturally marginal position hold? Moreover it focuses on the question of how these stories can be presented in a way that they maintain their empowering potential. These questions are specified by analyzing how individual and collective memories are produced through visual and verbal performative narratives. The concepts of time, emotion, affect, voice and agency deepen the inspection.