The new Meet the Artist interview is out and we are glad to present Louise Manifold. Louise works conceptually with film, photography, sculpture and text. Fascinated by the power of stories and the creation of myth her multi-disciplinary practice reflects upon the nature and expectation of narrative as a means to explore ideas on both the self and the body in relation to the other.
You are a multidisciplinary artist. Your practice ranges from sculpture, drawing, photo, video… How do you choose with which discipline you want to work? In which different ways do these different mediums speak to you and to the public?
I don't really choose my medium, Where it is possible I really try to let my own unconscious decide the conclusions to a work. I feel that it can be very limiting to make a decision on the materials an idea can be sent through if you are still just thinking.
However, it is much easier to have this approach for an exhibition. This is not always possible, if , for example you have commission, where the outcome needs to be clear from the beginning so often in this incidence it will be lens work. I get commissioned a lot to create work particularly in the realm of public and social engaged projects, and a lot of the time the medium is film or video.
Film and video is very open to collaboration is something that is very important to my practice, and I feel lens based work really lends itself to this successfully.
All the mediums I work are deeply rooted in the traditions of cinematic Mise-en-scène, photography was one of the first mediums I felt I could really express myself through.
Sometime it is drawn from the desire to explore that materiality of cinema and memory, that become a trigger for my decisions., I really drawn to ideas that explore how sensuality and memory can be almost inscribed on film and how we imaging the surface For example Laura U. Marks theory on Haptic Visuality are really important to me in respect to this.
I Love the work of Man Ray, Diane Arbus and Francesca Woodman, when I first encountered these artists work, I was a student it marked a turning point in becoming the kind of artists I wanted to become. Woodman's influence is one that I continue to return to, alongside more contemporary artists such as Irish film maker Vivienne Dick and Finnish video artist Eija-Liisa Attila.
In which different ways do these different mediums speak to you and to the public?
Despite some of it’s slightly abstract content, My work is quite research focused, and I really like to try to find as much information as possible on my subject.
The medium comes to me through the research, it can be a lightening bolt, or a slow realisation.
I am very invested in public experience of work, so nearly all of my work is presented with particular conditions, in terms of encounter, so conceptually it lends itself well to installation
-I have always had a love of found objects, curios and material culture, my mother owns an antique shop, so I guess it is genetic. Since I was a child. I was fascinated with how objects could sit and be displayed together what kinds of stories one can create from material display.
I remember being about 11 or so and seeing a sculpture made of reclaimed material ( machine parts and wood) it must have been the late 80s in Galway Ireland. I remember being really inspired to go out and do the same with an old washing machine my parents recently threw out!
But as a result I spend a lot of time working with collections or museum archive, for example. Right now I am just back from develop working in the Musée d'art et d’histoire in Neuchâtel and have previously worked in the La Specola in Florence, Francke Foundations in Halle, Germany, and numerous archives in Ireland. I have always been drawn to ideas on collecting practices as a means rethinking ideas on self awareness and identity.
Could you please explain to us how does normally your artistic process is?
My process begins with a notion. Finding of a story or an object, this finding, be it from a historical or philosophical perspective, just resonates with me.
Something has to be found in order for the work to evolve, Even if it as a reference to another genre, a story or an encounter. I spend a lot of time researching my ideas. But there origins are quite organic and simple, For example two months ago, I had a brief conversation on cannibalism in respect to survival, and that it is still legal in Germany. It was a strange conversation as it led me to think a lot on loneliness which is the impetus for the work I am currently making. My work changes a lot through its process, and it keeps changing until a deadline is given, and sometimes even after a deadline it will change again.
Narratives, the uncanny, legends and myths seem to be cornerstones of your artistic world. How did you first started to be interested in these topics and how do you integrate them into your works?
My childhood, my family, storytelling and also my Irish identity kind of pushed me towards these topics, which I often use this to examine deeper notions on perception, imagination and feminine subjectivities. I am constantly drawn to ideas and situations that ask how we construct identities, and what happens when our sense of identity is compromised. I think much of my work comes from trying to make sense of these notions in respect to storytelling and also different cultures of myth making. Irish folklore is quite dark, even more so in its contemporary narratives, in fact most fairy stories have a great promise of violence, so in someways it is difficult to escape that tradition. Ideas on decay in particular are important to my work, and also landscape and spaces that appear desolate, such as the Connemara landscape in the West of Ireland.
There is a melancholy language that connects people to perishing and decline, and I am fascinated our emotional experience of such and how it can be represented in cinema.
Women, the devil, decay. There topics are treated in your works with great theatricality. How would you explain your fixation for exploring an overlapping of these elements?
I think it is interesting that that you highlight the topic of the devil.. I am not sure if topic in my work ( not in its religious understanding,-however as a human characteristics I think it is interesting that it can be seen like that). I see it more as kind of Gothic /Absurdist take on life.
My work comes from my a sense of detachment that has always been part of my life, a feeling of not really there, or that the internal and external sense of self awareness don't really align. Despite how outside or beyond the collective norm they may appear, it basically talks about individual struggle to inhabit a form or place.
Previously a lot of my work has come from researching dissociative mental states and there connections to mythology-I am interested in the language, actions and narratives used to convey this
Much of my work is based on impermanence and change, I am fascinated with the sublime nature of decay and the material tension it presents.Things breaking down, fading, falling apart-it all becomes like a nihilistic code for becoming other.
I think it helps me focus on the frailty of humanity in more abstract and emotional ways.
Your artistic statement refers that you generate dreamlike scenarios that suggest a sense of disconnection from the lived world in favour of a private real. You insistingly blend the boundaries between the visible/invisible, familiar/unfamiliar, collective/individual, real/unreal. Your works are frontiers, are intersection points, the middle ground. Why is this disconnection, this sort of abstraction from the real world is so important to you?
I am not sure why they become so important to me, I think I have always been interested in binaries and the in-between. I think when you blur lines and distinctions you ask your audience to think which I like to do. I also feel it comes from an uncertainty witching oneself. And reflects a personal position on emotional estrangement’ where these familiar forms of emotional response are disrupted or subverted. I am very interested in both Shklovsky ideas on “Defamiliarization” and Brechtian “Alienation effect” have been a big influences on my work and the decisions I make with my work. I have always been fascinated with ideas and approaches that invoke strangeness in order to illicit public response.
Originally, I made work because I felt like in some ways, that there is breed of people who cannot fit into the actuality of the world, maybe because they found this difficult, they invent s realities that suite them better.. This ideas of escapism through delusion, repetition or boredom is something I have been drawn to for over 16 years - well before the invention of the Internet anyhow
However I think it is actually becoming much more difficult to talk about abstraction from "the real" world today as so many people are connected to digital environments and social media.Escapism feels like a norm that is culturally insisted upon, against this we also have a huge amount of literature and practises advising us how to live in the present.It feels like society seems to be suffering a great difficulty in connecting to reality right now. I have come to consider my work as being increasingly drawn to comment upon this, as I feel that abstraction almost is the norm.
Could you please describe to us the project that you have been working on while at GlogauAIR?
My project at Glogauair is based on research of early German Expressionist cinema, particularly the lighting and set design.
I have been a huge fan of German Expressionist moments, mainly in early cinema genre such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Golem alongside the design ideas of Han Poelzig, Bruno Taut and Paul Sherbart
I am particularly interested in how this genre represents the human sentiments of it time..There is a sense of the collective crises, which I feel is repeating itself today.
I have been working a lot with creating miniature enviroments, working with dissolved plastic houses that I sourced from a second hand store here in Krutzburg. The houses look like traditional German homes, but I have put them through a very reductive process that subverts there representations.
I have really enjoyed the time on residency as a means of working with the materiality of different object, and I have really used this ,the opportunity to play with the sensory qualities of a material and emotions positions.
The symbols of the broken house is a very contentious one, particularly in respect to Ireland. And whilst it is may be considered as a commentary on real estate, it is a sense of homelessness that I have felt, and I am often under the belief that If I feel this, it must be felt by others.
Louise Manifold's residency was funded by Galway County Councils Individual Artists Bursary Awards 2017.