Melanie Manchot.

*1966 in Witten, GER, lebt und arbeitet in Berlin, GER, und London, GBR

Studium am Royal College of Art London, GBR, City University London, GBR, und an der New York University, NY, USA


Ausstellungen [Auswahl]:

2012 The Continuous Still, Toronto Photography Festival, New commission, Toronto, CAN
Videoart at Midnight, Screening, Babylon Cinema, Berlin
2011 Leap after The Great Ecstasy, Galerie m, Bochum
Gathering, Fabrica, Brighton, England, UK
Dance (All Night, Paris), Nuit Blanche, Paris, FRA
2010 Celebration (Cyprus Street), The Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK

LEAP after The Great Ecstasy

Date: 2011
Lenght: 20:03 min.
Format: 16:9
Specifications: Colour, Sound, Two Channel
Courtesy Galerie m, Bochum


Kaum eine Sportart scheint der perfekten Illusion für einen kurzen Moment so nahezukommen wie der Skiflug. Alljährlich wiederkehrende Fernsehbilder präsentieren scheinbar schwerelos in der Luft gleitende Sportler, jubelnde Zuschauer und euphorisierte Reporter. Auch die britische Künstlerin Melanie Manchot widmet sich den Bildern jener Sportevents. Inspiriert von Werner Herzogs Dokumentation „Die Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner“ (1974) rückt sie indessen das Spektakel in ein anderes Licht. Eine nächtliche Alpenlandschaft inmitten der Schweizer Berge, die verschneite, unberührte Schanze, monoton arbeitende Schneemaschinen im gleisenden Scheinwerferlicht verleihen dem Austragungsort den Anschein einer pittoresken Szenerie, in der die Ekstase des Wettkampfes noch nicht spürbar ist. In den parallel gezeigten Sequenzen der Zwei-Kanal-Videoarbeit dekonstruiert Manchot das für die Fernsehberichterstattung charakteristische Bild der zumeist übermenschlich wirkenden Skispringer. Die Kamera beobachtet die jungen Männer am Tag des Wettspringens, die sich im Warteraum auf den entscheidenden Sprung vorbereiten. Großaufnahmen ihrer Gesichter offenbaren neben der Konzentration und Fokussierung auf den Sieg die Anspannung und Nervosität vor dem Moment des Sprungs. Im Unterschied zu den Fernsehbildern verweigert Manchot jedoch die Auflösung – den befreienden Moment der gelungenen Landung –, indem sie die typischen Flugbilder der Imagination des Zuschauers überlässt. Nur eine akustische Referenz – das zischende Gleiten über die Schanze – vermittelt einen Eindruck des entscheidenden Moments, des Absprungs, in dem sich alle Spannung löst.

Agnieszka Smyrek




► 1. Your work has been chosen among over 2000 festival entries to participate in VIDEONALE.14. In which context do you prefer to present your work, festival/cinema context or exhibition? And what kind of difference does the respective mode of presentation mean for you / your work?


The exhibition scenario as compared to the festival/cinema circuit sets up completely different viewing habits and expectations, in terms of spatiality and temporality, context and disposition. To me neither is the only or ultimate context for the work but I believe that works that are seen in both are experienced radically different. I do like how some artists make different ‘cuts’ for either cinematic or installation presentation, say Chantal Akerman or Eija-Liisa Ahtila. This is a proposition I would like to explore with future works, in fact with a new project I am working on at the moment. So far I have made works that exist as either single screen or multi screen/monitor works – so each project tends to have its own specific form.  Hence even on that first pragmatic level, some of my projects do not suit a cinematic presentation as they are installations and need a spatial setting. The next question is one of linearity versus circularity, i.e whether the work has a clear beginning and end or in fact operates best as a loop. As with most short format films, in a screening/cinematic setting each film will be book-ended with others and that creates a particular challenge: how does each film best assert its own presence in relation to the ones either side. This applies even when you do a screening of just your just own work but of course even more so when many artists’ works are curated into a programme.  On the other hand, dialogues can be set up through a precisely curated screening where each film will further – or challenge – a set of ideas in the others. On balance, my work is probably more comfortable in an exhibition context rather than a screening format.



► 2. Art can be seen as a mirror that registers and reflects life or as a tool that transforms it. Is there a particular theme, concept or problem your art addresses the


In my practice the operations of art overlap in their multiplicity and connectivity, partially through my intentions yet also through the viewers’ different modes of reception. I don’t believe that in how I set up my projects reflection and transformation are strictly separate. Arguably a sense of reflexivity is a necessary condition for transformation, as it suggests a position of criticality. Hence in my practice the binary positions that the question suggests are perhaps not as productive as considering when art registers, reflects or transforms and if these operations are always preconceived within the design of the work? I would suggest that these different functions partially reside within the viewers reception and it may be interesting to investigate, if and when a piece of work operates as a mode of registrations and reflection and how it may come to disturb or transform.
I am concerned to avoid didacticism in the practice as I believe this would narrow the work and its reception.  Hence I would be cautious to devise a work with the specific intention to transform life as such.  However, I believe that reflection is a condition for and a space of criticality and discourse and transformation may arise from these. With regards to themes, concepts and problems: There are a number of recurring and overlapping themes in the practice. Many of the works investigate the individual in relation to performative activities played out in particular physical or cultural settings. Relations to community, the collective or even crowds are significant themes. The extended project of portraiture is a central concern and the practice continually questions what portraiture can achieve in this highly mediated moment in time.  To me, portraiture as a themе is partly defined by its own failures, or rather its struggle to articulate a position between an outdated essentialism and postmodern forms of portraiture. In this context, performativity is an important strategy for my practice in order to activate the relations inherent in the process of making an image with and of subjects. In some ways I started using video as a way to question photographic portraiture, to challenge the condensation that occurs within photography through the dimensions of time and movement, through gesture. Leap after The Great Ecstasy is more of an observational work than most of my other works, which often involve setting up staged scenarios or events with participants. Leap specifically looks at the psychology of perfection and the troubled relationship between nature and a human desire for control. In its structure across seven short sequences, displayed across two screens, the work observes a series of detailed processes of preparation with the central action at stake, leaping through the air while skijumping, is forever withheld. 



► 3. In which way is the video medium an excellent possibility to express your intended subjects, especially in contrast to other media you use? Or do you work exclusively with video?


My practice encompasses video, film and photography and each of these three media is employed for their specific language and methodologies. Hence, across my work, the characteristics of these respective media often extend the meaning of a project, for example through the histories they reference or the aesthetic framework they might set up. Decisions on how to make a piece of work come mainly through what the work seems to demand, how to find the most interesting and concise translations and responses to a question or a set of problems. Across different projects, the practice keeps investigating relations between still and moving imagery, between those three forms of generating an image or a sequence of images. It is important to note though that cameras for me are not just a way to generate a visual document, an image. Cameras become performative devices that allow me to create scenarios and relations.  Over the last five or six years I have mainly worked with video and video installations. Particularly over the last two years the change in video technology has enabled me, as much as many other artists, to now make moving image works at the level of ambition that suits the ideas yet is both logistically and financially manageable.  Video technology has over and again pushed boundaries for artists and recent years have seen another paradigm shift – which is clearly visible in the current shifts in language within many video artists’ work.



► 4. If you have the chance to ask the visitors of the VIDEONALE.14 exhibition questions about your own work, what would be your question?


* How does the work resonate within you, i.e what does it make you think of, which questions does it raise?
* How do you experience the installation of the work across its two screens and how do you respond to the sound?

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