Manchot, Melanie.

*1966, in DE
lebt und arbeitet in London
Studium an der New York University, USA und/and City University London, UK
und Royal College of Art, London, UK


Ausstellungen [Auswahl]:

2011 Einzelausstellung, “LEAP”, Video installation und/and Fotografie, Galerie m, Bochum, Germany
2011 Gruppenausstellung „Sex Drive“, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford, PA, USA
2010 Einzelausstellung „Celebration (Cyprus Street)“, The Whitechapel, Gallery, London, UK
2010 Gruppenausstellung, „Lets Dance“, MAC/VAL, Musee d’art contemporain de Val de Marne, Paris, France
2009 Gruppenausstellung, Thessaloniki Biennale 2: Art In Times Of Uncertainty, Thessaloniki, Greece
2009 Teilnahme an/participation in Nuit Blanche, Paris, France
2008 Einzelausstellung „May happiness knock you over“, Brighton Museum, UK

Celebration (Cyprus Street)

Date: 2010
Length: 10:20 min.
Format:  16:9
Specification: Colour, Sound


„Celebration (Cyprus Street)“ ist die Fortsetzung und zugleich der Höhepunkt einer Serie von Arbeiten, in denen sich Melanie Manchot mit den Zeugnissen historischer Gruppenporträtfotografie auseinandersetzt. Das Gruppenporträt diente in Malerei und Fotografie jahrhundertelang der Darstellung von gesellschaftlichen Beziehungsgeflechten, wobei das jeweils abgebildete urbane Umfeld entscheidend die Kontextualisierung des Gezeigten bestimmte. Dieses Prinzip greift Manchot in „Celebration“ auf. Während die Kamera fast beiläufig das bunte Treiben des Straßenfestes, das Manchot gemeinsam mit den Bewohnern organisiert hat, einfängt, hat der Betrachter Zeit, sich ein Bild von den Bewohnern der Straße zu machen. Die Häuser bleiben bei diesem Treiben Fassade und sind doch zugleich der über Jahrzehnte bestehende Hintergrund für diejenigen, die sich in und vor ihnen bewegen und der Straße ihre eigentliche Identität verleihen. Der Blick in den Mikrokosmos dieser Straße kulminiert schließlich in einem Gruppenporträt, für das sich die Bewohner nach und nach auf der Mitte der Straße versammeln, die Gesichter zur Kamera erhoben. So verharren sie einige Zeit in plötzlicher Ruhe und überlassen es der Kamera, sie – für diesen kurzen Moment des Porträts zum Kollektiv verbunden – als Dokument ihrer Zeit in ihrer Straße festzuhalten. 



Celebration (Cyprus Street) is commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and funded by Film London (Digital Archive Film Fund) and Arts Council England.




► 1. Your video has been chosen among over 1700 festival entries to participate in Videonale 13. How central is the video medium to your overall artistic production? Is it complimentary to other media you use or do you work exclusively with video?


My practice encompasses video, film and photography and each of these three media is employed for their specific language and methodologies. Hence, across my work, the characteristics of these respective media often extend the meaning of a project, for example through the histories they reference or the aesthetic framework they might set up. Decisions on how to make a piece of work come mainly through what the work seems to demand, how to find the most interesting and concise translations and responses to a question or a set of problems. Across different projects, the practice keeps investigating relations between still and moving imagery, between those three forms of generating an image or a sequence of images.


► 2. Is there a particular theme, concept or problem your art addresses the most?


There are a number of recurring and overlapping themes in the work. The extended project of portraiture is a central concern and the practice continually investigates what portraiture can achieve in this highly mediated moment in time.  To me, portraiture as a themе is partly defined by its own failures, or rather its struggle to articulate a position between an outdated essentialism and postmodern forms of portraiture. In this context, performativity is an important strategy for my practice in order to activate the relations inherent in the process of making an image with and of subjects.


In some ways I started using video as a way to question photographic portraiture, to challenge the condensation that occurs within photography through the dimensions of time and movement, through gesture. As mentioned above, a lot of the practice plays, more or less directly, with the relations between still and moving imagery. This applies particularly to the work shown in Videonale 13: Celebration (Cyprus Street). The project is based on my interest in vernacular group portraits that were taken throughout the last century at street celebration that took place across the East End of London, where I live and work.  The piece is filmed as a continuous tracking shot on 35mm film-stock and centеrs around the very moment when a group of residents comes together for a portrait photograph in the middle of the street.  The filmed portrait never becomes 'still' but approaches a sense of condensation, a brief stilling of the continuum - before the (quasi photographic) moment breaks and movement re-animates the scenario.


► 3.What artists do you relate to or find significant for your own art-making?


This is always such a difficult question for me as it keeps changing over time. Recently - and currently - I am particularly interested in:

Andy Warhol Films (always and forever), Bruce Nauman, Fiona Tan, Francis Alÿs, Pierre Huyghe, Phil Collins, Roni Horn.


► 4. Do you think the video medium can address social or political issues better than other art media?


To me, no medium has an innate capacity to address social or political issues most poignantly. Having said that: I am, after all, an artist using cameras as a primary tool and employing them as a mode to access the world, to form connections to it and engage socially and by extension politically.

Hence to my way of developing ideas creatively, conceptually as well as aesthetically - video (along with film and photography) does present the most precise conduit. But that does not mean that I believe that video as a medium is generally better suited to address those issues.


► 5. Art can be seen as a mirror that registers and reflects life or as a tool that transforms it.

Which of the two positions is close to your own art-making philosophy?


I am not convinced that it is possible to separate reflection and transformation as neatly as the question suggests - I think they are at various points intertwined. At different moments in time art may carry different functions, from reflecting via disturbing to revolutionizing our perception of what life may be.


With regards to my own practice: the work never sets out to transform life or our current world as such, it is more reflective of society than transformative, holding up some mirrors but no imperatives. I am concerned to avoid didacticism in the practice as I believe this would narrow the work and its reception.  However, I believe that reflection is a condition of transformation.


► 6. How do you understand success in an art-making career?


Interesting question in the current climate - and I am fairly 'old-fashioned': first and foremost the work has to keep challenging me and my understanding of how I can create meaning through a creative process. It has to continue surprising me, to catch me off-guard, to excite me intellectually and emotionally.


One of the projects of art-making is to contribute to a dialogue of creative thought, hence one of my measures for the success for any work of art is the degree in which it might further develop ideas, push boundaries, challenge the language of art. It also, crucially, has to engage others, and ideally others from different types of backgrounds. As for many artists, my immediate peer group is constituted mainly within the art world but my aspiration is for the practice to touch an audience beyond the art world itself, to create thoughts and ideas that can reach people from a range of backgrounds and interests. After all, the type of work I make exists in dialogue with people, those in the work and those that perceive it. And it is for above reasons that it does matter to me that the work is out in the world, that it is presented within interesting contexts, be that exhibitions, film screenings, biennales or festivals.

► 7. What is the most difficult and the most rewarding thing about making art / being an artist?


One of the most rewarding and challenging aspects is the sense of freedom you achieve occasionally.  It always comes with many questions, a degree of responsibility for the decisions you make. I mainly achieve those moments when thinking towards a new body of work, when the ideas start opening out in my mind before I start making, when the possibilities are wide open. This rush of ideas is one of my favorite moments within the process. But I also absolutely thrive on periods of production, when I am out filming and actually making the work, being totally immersed in a project.


There are the usual suspects in the 'most difficult' category: emotional roller coasters, financial instabilities, career pressures...


► 8. What are your upcoming projects?


I have just completed a new project, LEAP, comprising a multi channel video installation and a set of photographs which will be shown concurrently to the Videonale 13 at Galerie m in Bochum (see: The work investigates the search for moments of perfection, examining the mythology of human flight by looking at the obsessive preparations for a world cup ski jumping event. The work is introducing a number of new methodologies to the work: it is more observational, less constructed than previous projects and the editing process takes on a much more substantial creative role.


The piece was initially inspired by my love for a 1974 Werner Herzog documentary: 'The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner'.  The work was filmed in the high alpine valley of Engelberg and the video develops across 7 distinct episodes each looking at a precise element of the preparation towards the moment of leaping off, towards 10 seconds of human flight. Some of the sequences that will form the final video piece were shown as two minute interventions on Swiss Tele 1 during the actual week of the filming in December 2010, but this exhibition will be the first time the work will be installed in a gallery space. At Galerie m, LEAP will be presented as a series of projections and screens.


► 9. What do you do when you don't make art?


Apart from the usual (watching loads of films: in particular unusual documentaries and indie movies, reading ...): I am passionate about free-ride skiing and ski touring and spent as much time in the mountains as possible. The current work (see above: LEAP) is the first time I have begun to bring those two passions in my life closer together.


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