Chris Bennie 
Mothership 2004 (detail)
standard definition Quicktime file, edition 2/3 
duration 0:23:00 
Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2011.


Mieke Bal
Reasonable Doubt: Scenes from Two Lives 2016 (still)
Scenes from the lives and works of René Descartes and Kristina, Queen of Sweden
written and directed by Mieke Bal
theoretical fiction | docudrama 
multiple-screen video installation, duration: 5 x 00:30:00

Saturday, November 11, 2017 (All day) to Sunday, February 25, 2018 (All day)

The Critic as Artist: Mieke Bal

10 November 2017 – 25 February 2018

The UQ Art Museum presents the second of two film works drawn from large-scale multimedia installations that explore new possibilities in literary and art criticism. Creative, collaborative, and highly experimental, they take up the traditional tasks of arts criticism and scholarship – to interpret and evaluate the aesthetic and intellectual objects of the past – while also reimagining the critic as artist. 

Mieke Bal's Reasonable Doubt: Scenes from Two Lives 2016

As an experiment to audio-visualise thought, this project stages scenes from two lives, briefly crossing in an intellectual friendship. It is not a biography but a series of scenes that constitute a double portrait. Some of scenes are historical, some my fictionalising way of doing justice to historical ideas relevant for today. 

After a relationship by correspondence, philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) met and briefly interacted with Queen Kristina (1626–1689) in Stockholm, where he died six weeks after arriving, due to the cold. Once Descartes had reached Sweden, the two didn’t see each other much. Kristina’s philosophical interest was genuine enough. But he was there in a more or less decorative function, to adorn Kristina’s ambitious project of creating an Academy that would put Sweden’s intellectual elite on the European map. 

Descartes left Western thought with a burden and a treasure. The burden: a misconstrued dualistic tradition. In my view, he accepted the dualism of the Catholic Church, but fought against it all his life because it is not reasonable. The treasure: a decisive advance in rational thought that, precisely, did not excise the body; nor religion for that matter. The (in)famous cogito can be interpreted in the opposite direction, an attempt to embody thought. In this project I look back from his last book, The Passions of the Soul and see the ongoing struggle against dualism in different episodes of his life.

This struggle is of concern to me because, among the many tenacious dualisms we continue to use whereas merging the issues would be beneficial to all, are those between cultural and economic values; and between academic and artistic, in other words, intellectual and sense-based expressive thought, analysis, and reasoning. In these dualisms I live and work. In order to help overcoming them, I look at the discrepancies between the Descartes we have abused and the one who was the point of origin of a non-dualistic mode of thinking. Queen Kristina is not only capricious but also philosophical, constantly thinking about life, and the bearer of the after-effects of this different Descartes. 

My interest focuses on the complexity of the alleged rationalism these figures represent. The productivity of the dialectical relationship between reason and a certain kind of madness in both Descartes and Kristina was never fully recognized. Through this project I want to suggest that reason and “madness” can go very well together. The persistent progressivism in our thinking is fond of the qualifier "post-Cartesian", as something we have happily left behind. But it is that "post-" thinking itself that betrays us as, I'd say, "pre-Cartesian". Caught in a world where dogma ruled and disbelieving it was severely punishable, Descartes spent his life doubting dualism and attempting to overcome it, rationally as well as in his capricious behaviour. Had we really listened to him, that vexed preposition post- itself would be used with more (Cartesian) caution.

Mieke Bal

Dr Mieke Bal is Professor Emeritus in Literary Theory, currently based at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. From 2005 to 2011, she was Professor of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. She works as a cultural theorist, critic, and video artist, and her areas of interest range from biblical and classical antiquity to seventeenth-century and contemporary art to feminism and migratory culture. Her many publications include Travelling Concepts in the Humanities (2002), A Mieke Bal Reader (2006), and Narratology (3rd ed., 2009). Her internationally exhibited documentaries on migration include State of Suspension (2008), Becoming Vera (2008), and Separations (2010); her installation Madame B: Explorations in Emotional Capitalism (2013) has been exhibited worldwide. Her essay “Ecstatic Aesthetics: Metaphoring Bernini” is reproduced in the exhibition catalogue for Ecstasy: Baroque and Beyond.

Presented in collaboration with the UQ Node, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100–1800).

National Self–Portrait Prize 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017 (All day) to Sunday, February 18, 2018 (All day)

11 November 2017 – 18 February 2018

The National Self-Portrait Prize is a $50,000 invitation only, biennial prize. Previous winners include Ben Quilty (2007), Julie Rrap (2009), Domenico de Clario (2011), Nell (2013) and Fiona McMonagle (2015).

Davida Allen | Robert Brain | Vicky Browne | Scott Chaseling | Karla Dickens | Julie Fragar | Will French | Helen Fuller | Dale Harding | Patsy Hely | Lorraine Jenyns | Jumaadi | Heidi Lefebvre | Vincent Namatjira | Claudia Nicholson | Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran | Jenny Orchard | Jungle Phillips | Lisa Reid | Marcelle Riley | Madonna Staunton | Kenji Uranishi | Justine Varga | Carla & Lisa Wherby | Terry Williams | William Yaxley | Paul Yore | Alan Young

Look at me looking at you posits the roles that the spectator plays in the construction of an image, the exchange between the viewer and maker that drives an image or object. With the self as subject, this can be reduced to an intimate conversation that might take place in the gallery space itself or at some future time, as if someone has passed on a message to be later revealed and savoured.

The title is from the song (I’m) Stranded by The Saints. Recorded in Brisbane in 1976, (I’m) Stranded quickly became an instant Australian cult hit and is now a classic. The Saints orbited around punk rock rather than being fully fledged members. Their intelligent, bombastic and pioneering attitude suits a more singular outlier vision rather than being part of any hip gang or fashionable style.

Most of the artists in Look at me looking at you are also in this spirit, revelling in aspects of the hand-made, the hand-me-down, the urgent and the everyday. They come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ages, are at different points in their careers, and create a variety of touchpoints, from celebrating the banality of the everyday through to pop music, family relationships and the nature of identity.


Glenn Barkley and Holly Williams​

Winner of National Self-Portrait Prize 2017

Jenny Orchard
Self Portrait as a Multispecies Activist 2017
glazed ceramic with metal framework
170.0 x 50.0 x 50.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Beaver Gallery, Canberra
Winner of the National Self-Portrait Prize 2017

Online Catalogue


Judge's Comments

Public Program

11.00 am Saturday 11 November
Please join us for an introduction to the exhibition by co-curator Glenn Barkley, followed by talks by selected NSPP 2017 artists.


  • View and download media images here 

  • Read the media release here

Nigel Milsom
Judo House Part 6 (the white bird) 2014–2015
oil on linen
Collection of Art Gallery of New South Wales. Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2015, with the generous assistance of Alenka Tindale, Peter Braithwaite, Anon, Chrissie & Richard Banks, Susan Hipgrave & Edward Waring, Abbey & Andrew McKinnon
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Yuill|Crowley, Sydney.

Saturday, September 16, 2017 (All day) to Sunday, February 25, 2018 (All day)

16 September 2017 – 25 February  2018

Almost four centuries after its creation, Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1652) remains the supreme emblem of religious visionary experience and the Baroque sensibility in art. Understanding ecstasy to encompass states of exaltation beyond the sensuous suffering of Bernini's sculpture, Ecstasy: Baroque and Beyond brings together older depictions of ecstasy with more recent works focused on the transcendence of normal consciousness, including trances, moments of expanded awareness, and visionary insight.  From representations of saints and mystics, to dreamscapes and images of bacchanalian revels, this exhibition explores how Baroque style – characterised by exaggeration, high drama, extravagance, frenzy, and excess – continues to inform contemporary art.


Curator: Andrea Bubenik


6.15 for 6.30 pm Friday 15 September
opened by
Angela Ndalianis
Professor in Media, Swinburne University of Technology








Public Programs

5.00 pm Friday 15 September
Before the opening, please join us for a conversation between the exhibition curator Dr Andrea Bubenik and Professor Angela Ndalianis, led by Dr Amelia Barikin.

Public Forum: Ecstasy: Art, Literature, Religion, History
8:30 am – 1:00 pm Saturday 16 September

Speakers include Alastair Blanshard , Andrea Bubenik, Kenneth Chong, Ewan Fernie, Peter Holbrook, Angela Ndalianis, and Simon Palfrey.

UQ History of Emotions Public Lecture in Art History
6.30 pm Thursday 5 October

Professor Andrew Leach, The University of Sydney, 'Ecstasy, Agony'
The Canadian sculptor Stanley Lewis owes his fame, in part, to the acknowledgment given him by the novelist Irving Stone. In the process of writing his forceful depiction of Michelangelo, Stone had been taught by Lewis to “carve marble” in the manner of the Renaissance master, allowing the writer insight into “the thinking and feeling of the sculptor at work.”


  • Download images for new and review here
  • Read the media release here

An exhibition partnership between UQ Art Museum and the UQ Node, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100–1800).