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A pioneer of installation and performance art, she started to deal with questions of identity and gender at an early stage, presenting her own body as the principal material for her work. In her performances, she explores desire, the S&M aesthetic, stereotypes, confrontation, or simply presence.

Exhibitions

A pioneer of installation and performance art, she started to deal with questions of identity and gender at an early stage, presenting her own body as the principal material for her work. In her performances, she explores desire, the S&M aesthetic, stereotypes, confrontation, or simply presence.

60 years of performance art in Switzerland museum Tinguely, 20.09.2017 - 28.01.2018

Manon Presents Man (1976)

Wallpaper created from a slide, for the exhibition

In Manon Presents Man seven men move in a Zurich store window in the manner of a tableau vivant. Inspired by the windows of the red-light district in Amsterdam, this arrangement now transforms the exhibited men into objects of desire.

On Manon, 1974-1977 (1977, 4'35'')

Video slide created for PerformanceProcess from the artist's book, 4'35''

In this book the artist collates her thoughts and research in the form of photographs, collages, and notes, and conveys an impression of the continuous performance that her life can be understood to be in these years.

PerformanceProcess Paris, Centre culturel suisse 18.09-13.12.15

On Manon'74-77 (1977, 4'35'')

Video slideshow based on the original book, produced by the Centre Culturel Suisse for PerformanceProcess (2015). The book On Manon'74-77, which she created herself, condenses her work via photographs, collages and notes and gives an idea of the permanent performance that constituted her life over these years.

Selbstportrait in Gold (2012, 189×126×3,5 cm)

Selbstportrait in Gold is a recent work in which she once again stages her body, but this time in a magnified medical aesthetic.

Manon Presents Man (1976)

Presented in the Focus Manon

Projection

Manon radically challenges the construction of the identity of her own body and of sexual stereotypes, as shown in her famous manifesto On Manon 74–77. These elements are at the heart of Manon Presents Man, a performance during which seven men form a living tableau in a Zurich shop window. Inspired by the red ligh district in Amsterdam, the piece shows men who have become objects of desire (dressed and staged by the artist) but above all it holds a mirror up to Manon herself, who embodies the sum of these fantasies: the bearded man in a leather coat (Steppenwolf), the man in uniform (SS Bösch), the dandy (Dorian Gray de Castelberg), the transvestite (Juicy Lucy), and the boy in a Manomania t-shirt (The Great Blondino).

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Manon presents “Manon”

A pioneer of multimedia art and performance, since the 1970s she has focused on the precarious nature of female identity: Manon’s art is a gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork) reflecting her own life. ...

A pioneer of multimedia art and performance, since the 1970s she has focused on the precarious nature of female identity: Manon's art is a gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork) reflecting her own life.

Be warned: this artist has no pity: a quick look at her Autoportrait en or (2014) makes this perfectly clear. Manon, awarded the Meret Oppenheim Prize in 2008, transforms life—synonymous with pain—into art. This portrait is the sublimation of a long, arduous therapy session carried out with sadistic-looking medical equipment. It shows another facet of Manon: an artificial character who paints her suffering in gold. “Manon” isn't her real name, of course. But the name she has given herself is a sign of recognition that beckons the viewer: “This is where I am, and I am what you see in me.” Manon, a trained and passionate actor, represents identities and projections, presenting herself to the audience as a woman who has been seduced. And yet what actually happens is the opposite: she's the one who cracks the whip and who makes our imagination run around like a circus horse in the ring. Manon insists on her right to self-determination beyond the limits of the genre—retrospectively, as it was too early for this in an art world dominated by men. At the same time as Yoko Ono, Valie Export or Lygia Clark, and even before Cindy Sherman (although unaware of their artistic approaches, as Manon works alone), she was the first artist to try out female roles in the public arena. Manon is also the first to have reversed the roles between performer and audience. A true visionary, she even invented alter egos of the opposite sex.

With Boudoir rose saumon (1974), she lit the feminist torch in Zurich, inventing, almost casually, the concept of environmental art. Manon set up her bedroom in a museum, decorated with erotic and glamorous accessories: scandalous! In fact, the artist anticipated what would earn Tracey Emin her Turner Prize nomination twenty years on. She is not in her boudoir; only the oppressive heat of the room embodies the scandalous reputation of this female artist: outrageous!

L'artiste est présent (1977) is the title of another series of sixteen images with live show from the same period (restaged in 2013, in a slightly modified version, under the title Persona). Even then, she sought to shatter her image and our expectations. Manon multiplied herself via the different women playing Manon, demonstrating the absurdity of the concept of identity. No one realised that she was also initiating the debate on the original and the copy that is so very topical today.

In the same vein, she worked on one of her earliest performances, La Vie en vitrine (1975/1976) – a sort of Facebook before the fact—where she exhibited herself in a window, surrounded by photographs and texts from Italian glamour magazines. In La Fin de Lola Montez (1975), she expressed her struggle against her own fears. She shut herself inside a lion's cage wearing a black catsuit and, despite being claustrophobic, allowed her feet and hands to be tied, like the legendary king's mistress. Manon then created her own product, her own fetish. The “tableau vivant” with seven men entitled Manon Presents Man (1976) is probably one of her first works that caused a sensation. As always, she looked after everything: the human zoo, the set, the costumes, the tightly controlled mise-en-scène. And as always, she reversed the roles: this time it was the woman who chose the men according to her desires and exhibited them, contrary to what has happened since the dawn of time. In her Manuel de travail (1977), the artist calls these men “the 7 archetypes of the 1970s”.

Manon is interested in the construction and deconstruction of the image, but she is not only a child of her time, she is also an analyst of her time. It is not surprising that after staging the spectacular Manon Presents Man, she left Switzerland to reinvent herself in Paris. In Paris, she shaved her head, destroying what symbolises beauty, and played La Dame au crâne rasé (1977-1978) in front of her camera. She showed herself naked from head to foot: a screen for every terror engendered by art.

 

Daniele Muscionico, freelance journalist and art critic writing for Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Die Zeit and Emma

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