Melanie Manchot’s solo show TWELVE, on at the Castlefield Gallery until 1st November, is a video installation-based exhibition inspired by the sufferers and fighters of addiction.
The ‘TWELVE’ of the title is not the number of works, but the people who inspired them, and through the course of the exhibition we are permitted insights into the experiences of this twelve, with ‘rituals’, ‘ruptures’ and glorious defiances recounted across the exhibition. Manchot brilliantly draws us into these experiences of the individuals she has come to know, and to feel something of the stubborn determination they have all had to make a permanent part of their lives.
The videos do not have the particular brand of realism that we have come to expect in documentary interviews, instead they are staged in a way that allows a different version of the addiction experience to be revealed. A case in point is Twelve (Lost Weekend). In this work an account is presented in two screens, one with the subject seated at the bar of a pub, and addressing the viewer directly, and the other showing the same man, this time leaning over the bar with his head on his hands looking away from the viewer, though towards the other screen. These screens provide contrasting voices to the narrative. Together, they create a rhythmic and almost musical model as the ‘second’ voice interrupts, repeats, and speaks in unison with the first. The effect is entrancing, and provides another level to the story as we experience the disappointment, regret and anger that the subject has internalised.
The potency of this exhibition is found in the revelation of these experiences. The most substantial work in the exhibition is Twelve (Triptych), which effectively creates the space for these revelations with slowly unfolding stories that carry poignancy and a gradually developing understanding. In this piece Manchot takes us through several narratives. She leads us in with the strangely hypnotic footage of a car going through a car wash. The driver of the car then begins to recount a story before cutting to a repeated motif of two men walking purposefully down the streets – the march of their steps, shake of change in their pockets and birdsong around forming a soundscape that moves us forwards towards the next personal narrative within the work.
Rhythm is at the core of this exhibition, sometimes in a soundscape of patterns and shapes, or in a repetitive visual as with the car wash, and another motif of hands scrubbing a floor tile. This is an outstanding and moving collection of narratives, creatively presented and curated, and providing an insightful route into considering the illness of addiction, the bleakness of life under it and the monotony of the struggle felt by those fighting it.
Susanna Caudwell is a writer based in Manchester.
Image courtesy Castlefield Gallery.
Melanie Manchot: TWELVE, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester.
18 September – 1 November 2015.