Chapter one: The artist exposed
The structures that an artist erects reveals the nature of control: the studio, its decoration, the technical elements of staging, the (perhaps stock) prompts, conversations and dialogues that occur between the artist and their subject. These are controlled environments that have been carefully constructed in order to expound fully, and truly, upon an individual artist’s creative ambitions. Conversely, as an artistic concept, risk is important. In this instance, as a means of developing an artist’s practice the creation of work itself becomes a method of work-in-progress research.
The two films that open the selection here are Melanie Manchot’s first experiments in utilising a new medium in order to extend her photographic practice. Her first act is to dismantle the traditionally secure structures, psychologically freeing herself from the limits of control. Manchot’s work is concerned with using a camera to stage performative portraiture. Wandering the streets and subways of London, Barcelona, New York, Los Angeles and Moscow Manchot carries a concealed camera, her interactions (for all intents and purposes) are entirely personal. As a work of performance, she herself becomes the medium; the interactions and the performative behaviours becoming exposed upon Manchot herself.
An artist’s practice requires ongoing assessment and reassessment in order to develop their work within their field: it is the process of creation of these films that provides Manchot’s evaluation of her own practice and skills as an artist challenging notions of contemporary portraiture. Curious of the cultural, personal, social and historical elements upon which individual and collective personality are built, Melanie Manchot’s ultimate artistic concerns seem to be to develop and innovate current and fixed notions around contemporary portraiture as a visual art form practice.