‘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

Usurp 5 India screening 19 March 2016

In August 2015, “Ghost House” and “Disciplinary Institutions” were screened at Usurp 5 Festival London. On Saturday 19 March 2016, both films were screened in India at a Festival organised by Usurp 5. I’m only advertising after the fact as I was very busy last week and don’t know anyone who lives in India 🙂

Facebook event for the screening

Usurp5-India-2016-03-19

Usurp Art from London is thrilled to invite you and your friends to a special screening day of international award winning art films at the iconic and amazing India Habitat Centre, our first time in India. Full programme and running order as below.

Sat 19 March 2pm – 7pm
Experimental Art Gallery,
India Habitat Centre Delhi
Drop in anytime
FREE – ALL WELCOME

Featuring films by artists from over 15 countries inc. Jordan, Spain, Argentina, Germany, India, Peru, South Africa, Japan, Britain. Think – abstract, activist, animated, collage, conceptual, cut-ups, environmental, glitch, graffiti, identity, outsider, performance, poetry, rebellious, sci-art, scratch, silent,
sonic, subversive, surreal, synesthetic,
video art…

Usurp Zone5 Film Festival was originally supported by Film Hub London, Film London, BFI Fan Audience Network. This iteration is solely funded by Usurp Art Gallery, which is a member of Film Hub London and a BFI Neighbourhood Cinema.

Address: Lodhi Road, Near Airforce Bal Bharati School, New Delhi, Delhi 110003

FEAT group exhibition – Rottingdean Windmill – 3-18 May

4 Photographs from the Ghost House series displayed inside Rottingdean Windmill, as part of the ‘Future Evolutionary Arts Turbine’ exhibition.

My pictures in situ!
Weekends 3-4 10-11 17-18 May, 12 noon – 4.30pm

Private view on Friday 2 May, 6-9 pm, contact me for an invite. I’ll also be invigilating on Sunday 18th if you want to have a chat.

Rottingdean Windmill, Beacon Hill, A 259 Coast Road
Buses: 12, 12a, 14 & 27

Free entry

Part of Brighton Fringe

FEAT @ Rottingdean Windmill 2014

Press Release

F.E.A.T is an art/heritage organisation showcasing 14 contemporary artist’s work at Rottingdean Windmill to coincide with Brighton Fringe Festival. It promises a dynamic show of innovative ideas and artwork in an inspiring and challenging space. We are presenting a diverse range of mediums including, photography, painting, audio and visual works, sculpture, installation art, ceramics, embroidery, screenprinting and an exterior installation outside the mill.

F.E.A.T supports emerging and established artists in a unique site in a Grade II listed windmill, maintained by Rottingdean Preservation Society. The windmill is a black smock mill situated on Beacon Hill on the Brighton to Newhaven A259 coast road. It was erected in 1802 and the last miller finished work here in the early 1880’s. It was saved from demolition by the Marquis of Abergavenny who had the mill renovated in 1905.

Accompanying the exhibition are a number of events; a Windmill talk, Walk & Talk of Rottingdean and a performance by musicians Annie Kerr and Chris Parfitt See website for details.

Contact details: feat2012@hotmail.co.uk

Exhibiting artists: Christine Barnes, Rachel Cohen, Gen Doy, Jaime Etherington, Jim Foster, Jill Guillais, Melanie Menard, Matt Niblett, Kate Orton, Agata Read,
Sujo Remi, Julia Rowe, Helena Tett and Sandra Wright.

For further details:
Website: http://feat09.wix.com/feat09
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/feat09
Twitter: https://twitter.com/feat09

The wheel of Rottingdean Windmill.

Ghost House video (new, improved 2011 edit)

I have made a new version of ‘Ghost House’, using footage shot in 2009 already used in the 2010 edit, and new, previously unused footage shot in 2010.

I needed to make a 5 minutes version for a submission that required a 5 minute film and found it a worthy exercise. The limited running time forced me to very carefully consider the appropriate length to get the most efficient effect from every single shot. I realised that in the previous version, I sometimes tended to let static shots run for as long as they were beautiful to watch. I realised that in trying to use as much of my footage as I could, I ended up diminishing the efficiency of the shot because, however beautiful the static shot, the audience was getting bored with it before it disappeared from screen. I saw that I could get more striking results by being more ruthless in my cutting, by keeping shots to the minimum length required to get affected by their atmosphere, but short enough not to get bored with it, even if it meant discarding well shot footage. I also took the difficult decision to discard beautiful shots because they did not quite suit the mood of the piece, whereas last year, I always tried to edit in everything pretty.

Reading all those reference cinematography and editing books, and writing down the tutorial helped me realise the paramount importance of coherent mood and precise rhythm. It’s more important to have a piece where the mood is coherent and not disturbed by elements that don’t quite fit, and a rhythm very precisely designed to lull the viewer into the desired reaction that to try and use as much of my good footage as I can just to prove I can shoot good images. Reading those reference books also made me more aware of how easily a viewer may be ‘jerked out’ of the world of the film by bad editing transition or jerky shots. It’s not about aesthetics, it’s about maintaining the illusion.

I feel my technique improved by following those abstract concepts, but ironically, I ended up breaking several textbook rules on purpose. You are supposed to start and end each sequence on a static shot, but I found out I got better results by ending and starting most moving shots on movements, but making sure that there is a continuity in the speed of fluidity of the movement in the 2 thematically different shots each side of the cut. Part of this is due that if I zoom in or out with the camera fixed on a tripod, there is often a slight jerk when I press the zoom button. It’s very slight but noticeable because the camera does not otherwise move. Ironically, it was more natural to start and end slightly jerky hand held shots on a freeze frame, because the slight sway was present all through the sequence and therefore not shocking. The other reason In think this particular rule was not appropriate is that it is designed for traditional narrative cinema where the camera is fixed and the actors move within the frame. Whereas I film static building and the movement comes solely from the camera move. Therefore what matters is to keep the movement of the camera fluid and regular, to give the impression it is travelling through the house without interruption. It’s as though the camera is the only character, the unseen narrator’s eye, and what must be preserved is the coherency of its point of view. Therefore, I aimed to keep a very fluid rhythm all through the piece, to give a sense of geographical continuity even though the video was shot at three different houses, to give the impression that a ghost was moving through the house, no longer limited by laws of physics and Euclidean geometry, and that we were seeing the world through its eyes.

It reminded me of a comment in The Technics of Film Editing by Reisz & Millar about Alain Resnais using moving camera shots in Last Year in Marienbad for the sheer sensual pleasure they procure. And indeed, in Marienbad, the camera moves a lot through the endless corridors while the actors in them are frozen like statues, almost becoming part of the décor, as immobile as the discarded objects of my ghost houses. I think the words ‘sheer sensual pleasure’ struck me, because I had never considered my relation to the moving image medium that way, yet I realised it was very true.

By the way, thank you WordPress for finally allowing to embed youtube videos!! 🙂

‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ continued during Summer 2010

In June/July 2010, I went back to Ireland to shoot some more photographs and video footage for the ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ projects. I mostly revisited previously explored locations; My aim was to try and rely less on the automatic settings of the cameras, make better use of the tripod, and generally be more thoughtful about my images. I have not looked at the video footage in depth yet, but for the photographs, the result were mixed. I did get some good images I did not get before, but some scenes I re-shot look no better in the newer, more worked versions than on the older version where I only specified the ISO and let the camera do the rest of the work.

This is a Ghost House in co. Galway that I visited in 2008. The first picture with the stairs is my favourite of everything I’ve made this year.

Ghost House

Ghost House

This is a Ghost House I saw from the road. I could not go inside because it was locked up, but I thought the exterior shot was very interesting because the walls appear to be bleeding.

'Bloody' Ghost House

I was granted authorisation to go into Woodlawn House, co. Galway. The house is empty and awaiting renovation but the elaborate interior architecture was enough to make interesting pictures.

Woodlawn House

Woodlawn House

I went back to the High Park Magdalene Laundry in Dublin, but I did not get much better pictures than last year.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

I went back to the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in Cork and got better pictures, especially from the upstairs floors. Some of these photographs need to be straightened because my tripod was not straight on the uneven floor (I need to find out how to do that).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

(The book says ‘Ecclesiastical Law’).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

I also got more pictures from Eglington and St Kevin’s insane asylums in Cork.

Eglington insane asylum, Cork.

I found by chance a Magdalene Laundry in Kinsale, co. Cork. The building itself was gutted and being transformed into flats, but the inmates cemetery was still there at the back of the building site.

Magdalene Laundry Cemetery, Kinsale, co. Cork.

Our landlady also tipped me to go see Letterfrack Industrial School: Industrial Schools were the equivalent for boys of what Magdalene Laundries were for girls. The School is now a normal school, but an information panel in the hall tells the story of the former Industrial School and the inmates cemetery has been turned into a sort of memorial.

Of course, erecting memorials afterwards does not change anything for the victims, but the contrast between the tended memorial of the Industrial School and the rusty, abandoned graves of the Magdalenes made me bitter. The wrongs done to the little boys are at least publicly acknowledged and apologies are at least paid lip service to. But the Magdalenes do not even get this: the Catholic Church still refuses to acknowledge any wrong done to the Magdalenes, despite campaigns from inmates’ descendants, and public authorities are all to eager to eradicate the Magdalene Laundries from the face of the earth, turning them into overpriced apartments without as much as a commemorative plate. Seeing this contrast made me all the more determined in my project to document the Magdalene asylums.

Letterfrack industrial school

Letterfrack industrial school

Ghost House II.2 selected for Royal West of England Academy Open Photography 2011

My photograph Ghost House II.2 has been selected for the Royal West of England Academy Open Photography 2011 (http://www.rwa.org.uk/curpro.htm).

I’m particularly happy to go back there because I was selected for their very first Open Photography exhibition in 2008, when I had no exhibiting experience and no formal art qualification. I think it is good and too rare that a prestigious gallery is brave enough to give their chance to unknown photographers and to select work purely on the quality of the picture, not the applicant’s CV.

Ghost House II.2