Parafin is delighted to present a new exhibition by Melanie Manchot, her second with the gallery. Alongside, the gallery will bring a solo presentation of Manchot’s photographic work to Photo London at Somerset House (12–15 May 2022).
Melanie Manchot’s diverse and research-driven practice employs photography, video, film and sound. Her long-standing areas of enquiry range from portraiture to participation and performance-to-camera, to raise questions on our individual and collective identities, often in relation to how these are conditioned by socio-economic and locational factors. These concerns have informed her continued commitment to considering mountains as specific psychological, ecological and physical entities to reflect upon our changing place in an increasingly mediated world. Situated at the threshold between the documentary and staged events, Manchot’s work frequently involves an engagement with strangers.
At Parafin, Manchot will stage Alpine Diskomiks (2019), a major installation first shown in her solo exhibition at the Kunsthaus Centre d’art Pasquart, Biel in 2019. The 20-metre-long installation comprises 50 turntables and a frieze of album covers depicting mountain landscapes. The records are set spinning one after the other, according to the length of their content. At first, we hear an atmospheric mix of electronic sounds and drums. This track, with a running time of 19 minutes, defines both the beginning and end of the sound installation. Gradually, the other turntables join in, their music superimposed on the tracks already playing, mixing together genres from classical, 1970s pop and rock, experimental electronica, folk music and punk to death metal. What these records all have in common is the mountain motifs that adorn their covers, which Manchot has arranged to form a continuous mountain skyline. The audio work culminates in a deafening cacophony, an intense and overwhelming soundscape, like an avalanche of sonic events, that has the effect of melding the individual pieces of music together and disorientating the listener. Then, having reached the acoustic peak, the individual soundtracks gradually subside again until only the original music is heard and a sense of orientation gradually returns.
Alpine Diskomiks subverts the motif of the idyllic, romantic mountain landscape, suggesting, through the violent dissonance of the sounds, the tremendous natural forces that have shaped the Alps over millions of years. Through its accumulation and decay the work aims to question the cultural history of mountains, the contentious notion of the sublime and how particular landscapes might be co-opted as containers for human experiences.
Alongside Alpine Diskomiks Manchot will show a group of new collage works from the Flexidisk Jockey series made using postcard flexidiscs, again arranged so that their mountain imagery forms a continuous horizon line. During the cold war years such postcards were popular in eastern Europe as a means of covert communication and to get prohibited music – including pop and folk songs – past the censors. An aural collage of the music inscribed on the cards can be listened to using headphones.
In the lower gallery, Manchot will present a film projection, Snowdance (2019). Deep in the night, eight huge machines trace patterns and designs into the snow. Illuminated only by their own lights, they move in conjunction, at times as pairs, then in long lines, drawing circles, figures of eight, loops. Filmed using a drone and set to an original soundtrack by composer Christof Dienz, Snowdance creates a dynamic tension between observation and staged event, between scenography and chance. Based on traditional, regional alpine folk dances, the choreography presents the machines as both cumbersome and agile, creating a luminous dance inscribed in the snow. Collaborating with a community of mountain workers, Snowdance originated through a series of conversations on the back stage of mountain tourism, on the labour involved in making a mountain function.
Snowdance is part of Manchot’s ongoing series of ‘Mountainworks’, which forms a sustained enquiry into complex relations between landscapes, human agency and technology. The project explores the infrastructure of mountain industries in a particular alpine valley and considers questions of maintenance and responsibility for the environments in our care. Against a growing concern over human exceptionalism Manchot’s work aims to contribute to wider discussions around how we can build reciprocal engagements with the environments we inhabit.
Melanie Manchot (born 1966) has exhibited internationally since 1997. Recent solo exhibitions include Fondazione Museum Lumen, Brunico (2021), BTV Stadtforum Innsbruck (2019), Centre d’art Pasquart, Biel (2019), MAC/VAL, Paris (2018), Parafin, London (2018), Art Night, London (2017), Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (2016), Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth (2016), fig-2 at the ICA, London (2015), Nuit Blanche, Paris (2011) and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2010).
Important group exhibitions include ‘In The Now: Gender and Nation in Europe’, LACMA, Los Angeles (2021), ‘Street Life’, Photography Triennial, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2018), ‘Hooked’, Science Gallery, London (2018), ‘Actions. The image of the world can be different’, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (2018), Marl Media Arts Awards, Museum Marl, Germany (2016), ‘Group Therapy’, FACT, Liverpool (2015), Welde Art Award, Stadtgalerie Mannheim (2014), ‘The Rhythm Is…’, Museum Folkwang, Essen (2014), ‘Situations’, Musee d’Art Contemporaine, Paris (2012), New Forest Pavilion, 52nd Biennale di Venezia (2007) and ‘Global Feminisms’, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2007).
Melanie Manchot’s work is included in important public and private collections including the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Government Art Collection, London, Arts Council Collection, London, FMAC, Fonds Municipal d’Art Contemporain, Paris, LACMA, Los Angeles and the Brooklyn Museum, New York.