Chapter two: In Which We Watch (or, On Men and Boys)
Creating portraits (of people, situations or events) requires sets of boundaries to remain present. Where in the previous two films Manchot demonstrated thin boundaries, engaging directly with people and revealing behaviours therein, the following four films draw on the artist’s ability to use a locked (classically still) photographer’s frame in order to examine behaviours at distance, by observation.
Manchot in these films trains her camera - fixed and immobile - on men in staged situations, embodying roles that in certain aspects define areas of supposed masculinity. Manchot’s camera patiently watches as the nightclub bouncers that are the focus of Security (2005), overly muscular and preened to stereotypically Mediterranean excess, peel off their uniforms to stand either proudly naked or uneasily bare. In Shave (2007), we observe as a man is systematically shorn of practically every hair on his body. Using this thick descriptive boundary does, at times, reveal the inanity of behaviours and actions. Skilled as our eponymous Dancer (2006) is, outside of a traditional context his peacock posturing of dance as a ritual is amusing to watch, at best. Our cultural descriptions of how boys use outdoor play as a juvenile method of exploration is evident in Tightrope Walker (2006). We watch, from afar as he prepares himself, either in training or before an imagined circus audience: He, the star attraction.
Manchot’s strength here is almost as a documentarian: in her observation and in her patience, as a result these films are remarkably even-handed; neither feminist (therefore political) nor led with a female gaze (therefore gendered).