Melanie Manchot’s practice employs photography, video, film and sound to explore performative situations, often looking at the individual in relation to cultural and social situations and events as well as to public space. The work is situated at the threshold between the documentary and staged events and frequently involves the participation of strangers. At times focusing on particular gestures or forms of exchange the practice articulates modes of individual and collective experiences and relations. Across distinct projects the practice examines potential meanings and formats of portraiture and its conflicting relationships to issues of subjectivity and representation. Many of the projects involve performative processes where the camera becomes an organising principle which structures the event.
Manchot recently showed her first 35mm film Celebration (Cyprus Street), 2010 at The Whitechapel Gallery, London. The film is based on the rich history of public street parties in London’s East End and draws inspiration from the tradition of group portraiture in historic newsreel footage and photographs recording these events. Filmed as a 35mm tracking shot that pivots on a central, durational group portrait, the piece investigates the relation between still and moving images, between photography and film. In 2010, Manchot completed a trilogy of 16mm films: Kiss/Fight/Spat – each a continuous shot focusing on a moment of intense physical exchange between two people in a public location. Each of the films is based on a real life experience or observation, which was subsequently reconstructed in real life, playing on the ambiguity between a documentary mode and a staged event.
Manchot’s video installation Leap after The Great Ecstasy, 2012 explores the tension between nature and a human desire for control. Set on the world’s largest natural ski jump, the video charts the intense preparations for an annual world cup, both in terms of the materiality of the site and the individuals involved. The piece tracks in great detail those elements that contribute to the construction of a large-scale event as well as the obsessive focus required to perform at the edge of what is possible.
Tracer, Manchot’s latest video work premiered at Baltic 39, Newcastle in September 2013. Filmed with a community of Parkour runners, the piece explores landscape and architecture articulated through gestures enacted upon their materiality, tracing space through human movement.