Tricyclic Transform at Brighton Pride 2018, supported by Brighton Pride Cultural Development Fund

Tricyclic Transform – A Genderqueer Musical Cabaret
Supported by Brighton Pride Cultural Development Fund

Sunday August 5th, 8pm
Rialto Theatre
11 Dyke Road
Brighton, BN1 3FE

Tickets:
http://www.rialtotheatre.co.uk/whats-on/theatre-events/melanie-menard

‘Tricyclic Transform’ premiered at Brighton Fringe 2017 with support from New Steine Hotel, toured to Paris Dreams Before Dawn festival and Berlin Transnational Queer Underground and now received a Cultural Development Grant from Brighton Pride to be staged at the Rialto theatre as part of the official Pride Arts Festival. £1 per ticket donated to the Rainbow Fund.

Join Miss Liliane, Queen of Camp Noir, and Sebastian Marmite, the bedsit aesthete, round the gender wheel as they try to negotiate restrictive gender-roles by performing symbolic rituals and re-enacting iconic songs, trying on gender identities as they try on clothes and pitches.
From heart-wrenching jazz diva standards to the pissed-off ladies of gritty blues and Brecht, from the broken men protest songs of Johnny Cash, Scott Walker and Jacques Brel, to the gender-fuck anthems of Marc Almond and Boy George, with sprinkles of ‘Victor Victoria’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles’, ‘Tricyclic Transform’ mixes popular alt-drag cabaret, dark cabaret singing and live-art aesthetics to unearth ‘gender archetypes’ hidden in popular songs. Judith Butler takes on RuRaul Drag Race!

‘The Other House’ curated by Socially Engaged Art Salon for Artist Open Houses

Ghost House III.3

Some Ghost House pictures were shown as part of ‘The Other House‘ curated by Socially Engaged Art Salon for Artist Open Houses.

“The ‘houses’ in the exhibition are haunted by political, social, economic, gender and environmental issues that demolish any fantasy of a ‘house’ as a safe and comforting place. They show the ‘house’ as an ‘other’ space and as a system of processes in which people find themselves as strangers in their own home. […] The theme of the un-homely runs through several of the exhibition’s works: Melanie Menard’s haunting photography series documents deserted houses in Ireland which their occupants had to leave due to political and economic issues.”

Traverse Video Art Writer Simone Dompeyre on ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ (in French)

Magdalene II.1

Traverse Video Art Writer Simone Dompeyre wrote this article on my videos ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ (in French only). I will be published in the 2018 catalogue that will be available online for free when finished.

Mélanie Menard – Ghost House
 
La mémoire se forme sur les reliefs du temps ; des maisons vides depuis  si longtemps que poussière, tavelures, fissure et murs lépreux n’augurent pas de nouveaux aménagements.
Maison simple à étage, avec fenêtres barrées de rideaux plus ou moins intacts, blancs à fleurs ou rouges plus audacieux et dont l’ameublement tout aussi simple ne manquait pas de l’essentiel  ni des objets du quotidien désormais parsemant les décombres.
Ce n’est toujours cependant pas la nostalgie qui guide cette investigation, aux mouvements curieux, ne refusant aucun axe ni zooms avant ou arrière car même si en incipit, une petite horloge jouet, décorée, poursuit son balancement en attestation des attentes d’une petite enfant, les bouteilles vides nombreuses, l’imagerie pieuse fréquente entraînent vers un autre constat du mode de vie. Enfant roi abîmé saisi au passage. Christ en jeune homme aux longs cheveux dont le renversement n’est pas redouté par le montage qui le fait tournoyer – jouxte, en un autre plan, des pages arrachées d’un livre de prières qui n’hésite pas à énumérer «  éjaculation interdite et « fleurs ». Le visage de la vierge occulte à demi celui d’une jeune femme qui l’occulte à son tour comme prise par la modèle… les reflets de deux miroirs redonnent plus de brillance à ce qui est, en écho de ce qui fut et le vert des plantes éloigne tout larmoiement.
La musique électronique elle–même se teinte de mélancolie, Shadow of sleep
son nom adopte le propos : ils dorment ceux qui furent ainsi pris par de telles règles…d’eux demeure l’ombre grâce à laquelle on peut les réveiller.
 
Simone Dompeyre

Melanie Menard – Disciplinary Institutions
 
Melanie Menard pense en photographie et en films. Son regard est porté par des préoccupations d’Humaine. Elle sait et rappelle que nous sommes des êtres de la mémoire et d’Histoire et que nous nous devons  d’exercer la première pour l’autre.
Elle entraîne en des déambulations très dirigées, en perspectives calculées, en travelling épousant le plafond pour revenir au sol, en zoom déictique vers les décombres de diverses maisons mais d‘identiques raisons d’être et architectures. Des lieux « disciplinaires » de contention dont une énorme clef découverte dans un entassement de papier est emblématique, dont l’impasse s’avère la seule non-issue des couloirs aux portes fermées alors que les hauts murs et les fréquents barreaux déclenchent le motif de l’angoisse.
Le film va à la trace, il ausculte les murs lépreux, les tapisseries en lambeaux et intègre la découverte-irruption d’un étage plus « noble » à la tapisserie colorée, années 1960, à la rampe d’escalier ouvragée sans doute l’habitat de la direction de ses lieux sans davantage de commentaire.
Le silence n’est, cependant, pas accordé à la visite puisque une musique sourde, répétitive mais qui refuse le facile anxiogène -le film n’est pas d’horreur- n’autorise pas la contemplation esthétisante d’une poésie des ruines.
Mais l’esthétique de la mémoire en acte : couloirs larges avec arcatures en ogive traversés, plus étroits amoncelant les gravats vus de leur entrée, barreaux qui transforment les étages en prison captés en contre plongée, rares dessins appréhendés en légères saccades, carrelages suivis, végétation brillantes colorant l’espace ou graffiti obscènes au-dessus des anciens lavabos, les éléments sont pris en leur lieu et selon ce que leur emplacement offre comme possibilité de prises de vue… ainsi tel passage en caméra portée oscille, tel chariot pour malades est capté dans la profondeur du champ.
Ce faisant, la main actuelle entrant dans le champ par deux fois pour attraper telle page manuscrite, feuilleter tel texte imprimé ou approcher le dossier avec index et pages du Nouveau Testament, atteste de l’engagement de l’artiste dans cette « histoire à contretemps » selon l’éclairante formule de Françoise Proust. Revenir à ces lieux pour donner Histoire à ceux/celles qui y furent détenu/es sous des prétextes de morale et de diktats religieux, plus précisément catholique comme le dénote la statue de la Vierge saint-sulpicienne, intacte dans le jardin.
Le générique énumère les lieux de tels enfermements : « l’asile » qui longtemps a accueilli/enfermé malade et vagabonds ou, en une métonymie les indésirables ; « la blanchisserie, l’école professionnelle et la maison de travail (obligatoire) » où ces détenu/es travaillaient gratuitement.
Le film fait des décombres, leurs traces.
Pour paraphraser Deleuze, réclamant dans L’Image-Temps, à « l’art cinématographique […] non pas s’adresser à un peuple supposé, déjà là, mais contribuer à l’invention d’un peuple. » reconnaître à Mélanie Ménard d’inventer ces innommés, s’impose.

L’artiste dit :
Dans Surveiller et Punir, Michel Foucault définit les « Institutions Disciplinaires » comme des lieux où l’homme est rendu obéissant sous la répression préventive de toute déviation à la norme. Ma vidéo explore des endroits employés pour faire disparaître, discrètement, des personnes indésirables et/ou désemparées, ainsi le couvent de la Madeleine (qui a servi de prison pour femmes), les asiles psychiatriques (où les queers et les hommes dits déviants subissaient un « traitement » forcé) et les ateliers. Dépassant la simple documentation de ces bâtiments, je me suis intéressée à transmettre la manière dont les détenus disparus depuis si longtemps continuent d’imprégner ces lieux longtemps après leur mort, ainsi que l’aura maléfique qui émanant, toujours de ces bâtiments, perdure dans la mémoire collective.

Simone Dompeyre

Interview with Leeds Digital Festival!

‘Tricyclic Transform’ was screened at Leeds Digital Festival, and they interviewed me on their website. I copied the unedited interview questions below.

If you could start telling me a bit about yourself (briefly), so I can get a general impression. (What do you do, where are you from,etc.)

I’m originally from Rouen, France but have lived in the UK since 2005, and Brighton since 2012. I’ve worked in photography, video and digital since 2007 and branched into performance last year. I show work in exhibitions, galleries, film festivals, clubs as well as traditional performance venues.

What is your inspiration for a new project? What inspired you to start with art in general?

As a child, I spent all my time reading, drawing and making paper cut-out characters from my favourite books and staging plays with them. But being from a lower middle class background, I sort of self-selected out of studying art as a teenager and opted for the ‘financially safe’ option of software engineering. I remained passionate about Art though, and slowly grew the guts of making art, first as a self taught artist, until I studied for a MA at Camberwell College of Art in 2009-2011 via part time distance learning, while keeping my commercial software job.
I’m an intuitive and visual thinker, so Art is very much ‘practical philosophy’ for me: I will work on a project to make sense of social, political or philosophical issues that obsess me, where more literary-minded people would write about the subject.

What do you want to express with your artwork?

My work explores the tensions between the individual and the place and circumstances they inhabit, and the human mind in conflict with itself. In visual media, I design an aesthetic representing an individual’s thought processes, using a precisely crafted audio-visual mood and rhythm to trap the audience into their subjective experience. In performance, I mix popular alt-drag cabaret, ‘dark cabaret’ singing and live-art aesthetics to question gender identities, and portray individuals fighting restrictive social norms. I aim to gently coax the viewer into questioning norms and assumptions they may feel more comfortable ignoring, without presenting ready made answers, leaving a degree of ambiguity and interpretation.

What do you think about the transgender conflict in our society?

I believe that each individual’s perception of their gender identity and relationship with their body is unique, that nobody else has any right to pry into it and coerce them, and that nothing progressive ever comes in the long term from attempting to impose artificial simplifications over the endless complexity and fluidity of the human experience. So human beings need to resist pressures to ‘fit into narrow predefined roles’ that wreck their mental health, whether they come from mainstream society or more insidiously from within ‘alternative’ communities. That another individual’s experience differs from yours does not invalidate your own experience in any way, it’s just another one amongst endless natural variations. As Audrey Lorde said: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Talking about your artwork “Tricyclic Transform”. Can you give me some more information about your piece? What was the inspiration for it?

I’m interested in social control and repression, both the overt and violent kind, but also the subtle, more insidious cultural or peer pressure that an individual may end up internalizing. Being genderqueer, I experience a degree of detachment and critical distance from both feminine and masculine gender norms, and I leverage it to portray the psychological consequences of rigid, enforced gender roles on individuals, something that both trans* and cis people can relate to. Tricyclic Transform follows the inner journey of a person, who ‘thrust into being’ and presented with gender archetypes from popular culture, mimics them to ‘try them on’, only to discover none quite fit the complexity of their thoughts and experience. Their psychological journey is cyclical, though a gender spectrum of female, androgynous, male, with no fixed resolution.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would it be?

I don’t make art full-time, I have a commercial software job at the side. It’s important for me to be upfront about it because it’s so difficult to make a living solely from your art, and very few artists actually do, that if you maintain an ‘artistic blur’ about how you pay your bills, possibly for ‘personal branding’ reasons, then you contribute to the vicious circle of aspiring artists who can’t rely on family money or financial support from a partner possibly giving up because they believe they can’t make it work. I know dedicated creative people who do all kinds of commercial work at the side to support themselves and their practice.

Are there any projects planned in the future?

I’m working on a digital video installation simulating the collective creation of a shared queer identity through the assemblage and reinterpretation of fragments of a hidden history. Videos sequences document places associated with queer artists and thinkers, relating the former inhabitants’ experience of space, place and identity to the experience of contemporary queer people who drew inspiration from them. It requires coding as well as video-art, so of direct relevance to a Digital Festival!

ECF Funded Berlin networking and study trip

I received STEP Travel Grant from European Cultural Foundation to attend in person the Transnational Queer Underground exhibition in Berlin, network with international queer artists and complete a programme of self-directed study about Queer and Cabaret Berlin. This is a slightly extended version of my travel report on ECF website.

I visited the Transnational Queer Underground exhibition at Gallery ReTramp. You can download the catalogue in pdf. At the Easter Brunch, I showcased excerpts from my solo musical queer cabaret ‘Tricyclic Transform, as Drag Queen and Drag King including 2 Brecht songs from Threepenny Opera I dreamt of performing in Berlin! I watched performances by both local and international performers who had traveled especially like me. I attended a costume workshop which gave me valuable insight for my drag.

Full performance:

Brecht only:

I followed a program of self-directed study about Queer and Cabaret Berlin. I visited the Schwules Museum of LGBTQ Art, and was particularly interested in rarely found information about Queer cabaret performers persecuted by the Nazis.

I attended a LGBT history walking tour around the neighbourhood where Christopher Isherwood lived in 1929-1933, today still Berlin’s LGBT area. I saw the buildings of the bohemian boarding house at 17 Nollendorf Strasse where Isherwood rented a room, and the Eldorado nightclub (the real life inspiration for Cabaret’s Kit Kat club), now an organic shop 🙂 To learn the full story, I recommend reading ‘Christopher and his Kind’, the real life account of the part of his life fictionalised in The Berlin Novels (or watching the film adaptation). A particular anecdote made my day: Jean Norris, the real life inspiration for Sally Bowles, was a lifelong committed socialist. When the movie Cabaret was out, newspapers including the Daily Mail were stalking her in front of the house she shared with her daughter. The daughter replied ‘you want to talk to my mum about sex, she wants to talk to you about politics’.

Former Eldorado nightclub
Former Eldorado nightclub
Chistopher Isherwood House 17 Nollendorf Strasse
Chistopher Isherwood House 17 Nollendorf Strasse
Plaque at Chistopher Isherwood House 17 Nollendorf Strasse
Plaque at Chistopher Isherwood House 17 Nollendorf Strasse
Tiergarten Memorial for homesexuals persecuted under Nazism
Tiergarten Memorial for homesexuals persecuted under Nazism

I visited local queer-friendly underground art spaces (Sudblock, Silver Future, The Ballery neighbouring Isherwood’s former house, Barbiche, Instinct at Village Berlin), Bertolt Brecht’s House and his and Helen Weigel’s grave in the nearby cemetery, and the Tiergarten Memorial for homesexuals persecuted under Nazism. I attended representations of the Threepenny Opera at Brecht’s own theatre Berliner ensemble, and a musical Alles Schwindel by Mischa Spoliansky, composer of 1920 queer anthem Lila Lied.

Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel grave
Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel grave
Tiergarten Memorial for homesexuals persecuted under Nazism
Tiergarten Memorial for homesexuals persecuted under Nazism

The ECF grant enabled me to experience the Art Scene in a major queer hotspot in mainland Europe, and network in person with artists with whom I had previously collaborated digitally. I was pleasantly surprised by how much space the local LGBTQ magazine Siegessaeule devotes to culture, compared to its London/Brighton counterparts. I aim to pitch the TQU travelling exhibition to contacts from a Brighton conference about museums collaborating with LGBTQ communities, to try and find a host venue in the UK. Lacking time to visit all the LGBTQ history hotspots identified in my research inspired the possibility of crowdsourced contributions to a digital video installation I’m working on, to which worldwide TQU artists could contribute.

Tricyclic Transform full show at ACTS RE-ACTS 5 Wimbledon College of Arts: Performance Laboratory

ACTS RE-ACTS 5
Wimbledon College of Arts: Performance Laboratory
Friday 2 March, 2 – 9pm

Tricyclic Transform Full cabaret show at 18:40 in the theatre.
http://events.arts.ac.uk/event/2018/3/2/ACTS-RE-ACTS-5-Performance-Lab-2-March/

Event: Melanie Menard, Tricyclic Transform (70m)
Melanie Menard presents Tricyclic Transform, a solo musical cabaret exploring genderqueer identity with songs and drag. Join Miss Liliane, ‘biologically-challenged drag-queen’, round the gender wheel as they try to negotiate restrictive gender-roles by performing symbolic rituals and re-enacting iconic songs, trying on identities as they try on clothes and pitches.
Tricyclic Transform goes beyond the ‘private confessional’ nature of many queer solo performance, using ‘Lynchian’ cabaret and German Expressionism aesthetics to explore the alienation of enforced gender roles on individuals from a full spectrum of psychological perspectives.
20 songs span several genres (Torch songs, jazz, musicals, gospel, European Cabaret/Chanson, ‘storytelling’ songs by Johnny Cash, Scott Walker), united by a dramatic delivery and focused on archetypes: sacrificial femininity, Lilith (Predatory Femininity), Androgyne, Dionysos (Broken Man). The theatrical presentation mixes popular alt-drag cabaret with live-art aesthetics including on-stage costume change, breast binding and destroying make-up. Judith Butler takes on RuPaul’s Drag Race!

Refreshments available during the cabaret.

Photographs from Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage shown at ‘Bohemian Like Me’ LGBTQ art, Cambridge.

Photographs I took at Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage back in 2014 were shown at ‘Bohemian Like Me’ LGBTQ art exhibition in Cambridge earlier this month. Read a review of the show on Varsity Mag. I lived in Cambridge between 2005 and 2011 and the queer cultural scene was not really visible, so it’s really cool that people organised this show, it got good reception, especially from young people who welcomed the visibility.