Saturday 12 December 2015

Visiting Artist - Melanie Manchot

This week's visiting artist was London based Melanie Manchot who works with photography, film, video and installation as part of a performative and participatory practice.

She delivered an excellent presentation, providing a good overview of the development of her work starting with Look At You Loving Me, a series of portraits of her nude mother, and ending with The Gift which is currently being exhibited at Bloomberg SPACE comprising a four-channel video, photography and a set of objects on plinths.

Look At You Loving Me, 2000, Unique Silver Gelatin Prints onto Canvas

Groups + Locations (Moscow)

‘Groups + Locations (Moscow)', is a series of photographs taken at historic sites in and around Moscow. Based on late 19th century group shots, the work refers to a moment when photography played an important role in the Russian people’s comprehension of what their vast lands and its inhabitants looked like.

Neighbours (Berlin), 2006, Six Diptych: Silver Gelatin Print/C-Print

Neighbours (Berlin) is based on a series of six postcards from 1905/06, found in a Berlin antiquarian bookshop when Manchot moved there in 2005. In the original images, a group of people is depicted standing outside the houses where they live and work. On the back of the postcards the exact addresses are given as well as the date of their production. Taking those as instructions for a new set of group portraits Manchot revisited the six locations to see how those sites exist today, one hundred years on, to which extent history has altered the infrastructure and architecture of this city. The artist then invited today’s residents to participate in a new group portrait. The resulting images are a portrait of the changes inscribed in a city, of memory and history as much as of the individuals who have agreed to participate and become part of an image with their neighbours, who most often are strangers to each other as much as to the artist. The work is presented as diptychs of the original postcard and the new photographs.

Celebration (Cyprus Street)

‘Celebration (Cyprus Street)’ is based on the rich history of public street parties in London’s East End. The film takes the viewer along the street in Bethnal Green, with the focal point being the gathering of the community for a group photograph.

Celebration (Cyprus Street)

To make ‘Celebration’, Manchot worked with the residents of Cyprus Street over a period of six months, collaborating on preparations for the party and inviting active participation in the film. The work engages with the East End as a point of arrival to the capital and to Britain. It acknowledges the waves of migration passing through East London over the last centuries and articulates the current make-up of streets as complex multicultural units.


The film tracks the movements of a group of parkour runners as they navigate the route of the Great North Run. The structures and spaces they move through are explored in a physical manner, and a understanding of the architecture and environment is established through their direct interact with it. The film begins and ends with the group of parkourists moving as a swarm, but the main body of the film consists of a number of scenes in which a single parkourist is visible.


Twelve is a multi channel video installation exploring the intimate stories, rituals, repetitions and ruptures of lives spent in addiction and recovery.

Over the last two years Manchot has worked in dialogue with twelve people in recent recovery from substance misuse, in rehabilitation communities in Liverpool, Oxford and London. Twelve is directly informed by their personal written and oral testimonies, creative conceptions, and performances within final works.

Single sequences are shot as continuous takes, referencing iconic scenes from the films of Michael Haneke, Gus Van Sant, Bela Tarr and Chantal Akerman – a ferry journey across the Mersey, a car wash, the cutting of daisies with small scissors, the obsessive cleaning of a floor – providing the framework for reflections on remembered incidents and states of mind.

Melanie spoke of the importance of working closely with the participants in order to develop an understanding and level of trust that was crucial to producing the work. I admire the way that the work does not make a judgement of the people that she works with.

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