Over two years Manchot worked with twelve people in recovery from drug and alcohol misuse in rehabilitation communities in Liverpool, Oxford and London. Twelve is made from their spoken and written memories, recorded and acted out on camera to create a video installation that is part documentary, part fiction.
“We spent the first seven months meeting once a month but not making work,” Manchot recalls, “which is really unusual for me. It was research in a very honest sense – searching for what might happen, what might become, what might be.”
Each part of Twelve is based on a scene from an existing feature film that deals with addiction and recovery or with obsessive, traumatic behaviour. The video installation directly references films by Michael Haneke, Gus Van Sant, Bela Tarr and Chantal Akerman.
“We defined the aesthetic framework together, but in terms of content, it’s completely theirs. In a lot of cases I knew what they wanted to do but in some cases I didn’t – they’d just turn up on the day of filming, speak, act, do what they wanted to do.”
Subjects rarely address or face the camera and often scenes are recorded as continuous takes giving time for reflection and recollection. Visually, water and glass, reflections and shadows connect scenes together; journeys, cycles and repetitions are used to show the complex and non-linear nature of recovery.
Throughout filming the group reviewed their footage together. Stephen Giddings, one of the twelve, says: “You’re taking that step back and watching yourself from a distance. Even though when I was filming I felt pretty good, it was like the camera captured just how vulnerable I really still was at that time.”
Artist and participant quotes from interview with Michaela Nettell for AN Magazine article, published March 2015 www.michaela-nettell.com
Twelve was commissioned by Mark Prest of Portraits of Recovery and developed by Melanie Manchot working with Action on Addiction, the Ley Community and the Psychosocial Research Unit at the University of Central Lancashire. It was financially supported by Small Arts Awards from the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England through the National Lottery.
Twelve launched at Peckham Platform in May 2015 before being shown at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester; Galerie m, Bochum, Germany; Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth and Towner, Eastbourne. An edited version of Twelve featured in Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age at Fact, Liverpool in March 2015.