Chapter four: On the I in reconstruction
‘There’s nowt so queer as folk’, as the saying goes. Behaviours remain fascinating to watch, and we are reminded every time we turn on the television or radio: the endless stream of talk shows, soap operas, reality television and documentaries. The lure of watching people react to and within given situations has become a fundamental part of contemporary culture, particularly in the UK. As social realism gave way to realism-realism, we continue to transpose our guilt in the passive acts of viewing and judging.
Taking scenes observed by Manchot in real life, reconstructed for the camera using non-professional actors, the artist here presents to us something converse to which we have been culturally trained by the popular media in that she presents herself. What we see in these films are meandering narratives of daily scenes as noticed, remembered and reconstructed. That these films are neither judgmental nor intrusive but instead are gentle observational re-enactments of life in the city, Manchot presents to us the world as she sees it. Anyone who has sat for Manchot will know her manner as a portrait photographer; for anyone who has not, these films give a glimpse into herself, portraits of elements of her own personality.
These are moments, for whatever psychological reason, witnessed by Manchot and are moments recalled by Manchot. In their reconstruction Manchot seems to be addressing the audience as an artist directly - this is perhaps her describing to us the shadows of the world that she catches from her studio window. Like the works of theorist and historian Kaja Silverman, Manchot creates what can be described as ‘impossible situations’, but which are ultimately redemptive, and this is why we return to Melanie Manchot. Hers is a world which nature in all its forms is respected and admired. To quote Dziga Vertov, “I am an eye. I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, I am showing you a world, the likes of which only I can see.”