Babette Mangolte

Babette MangolteTrisha Brown’s Choreography Roof Piece, 1973, photograph. © 1973 Babette Mangolte.

Babette Mangolte, Shooting The Sky on Location, 1982, 16mm film, 78 min. © 1982 Babette Mangolte.

Babette Mangolte, Looking and Touching, 2007, installation view at the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (United-Kingdom). © 2007 John Hansard Gallery, Southampton.

Credit: Steve Shrimpton.

Babette Mangolte, Vista Porto Vineyard, May 2011, excerpt from Éloge du Vert, 2012-2013, digital print. © 2013 Babette Mangolte.

View of the exhibition Babette Mangolte, VOX, from January 25 to April 20, 2013.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Babette Mangolte, VOX, from January 25 to April 20, 2013.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Babette Mangolte, VOX, from January 25 to April 20, 2013.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Babette Mangolte, VOX, from January 25 to April 20, 2013.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Babette Mangolte, VOX, from January 25 to April 20, 2013.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.

View of the exhibition Babette Mangolte, VOX, from January 25 to April 20, 2013.

Credit: Michel Brunelle.
2013.01.25 - 04.20

Babette Mangolte

Barbara Clausen

Opening January 25, 2013

The exhibition was made possible tanks to the additional support of Broadway 1602, New York.

Babette Mangolte: An Exhibition and a Film Retrospective


Babette Mangolte: An Exhibition and a Film Retrospective1 presents a series of works by the French-American artist and filmmaker that span her early pioneering documentary interest in dance, performance art and theatre in New York City during the 1970s as well as her films and more recent site-specific installations. The exhibition reflects upon Mangolte’s profound intellectual fascination with the time- and site-specificity of perfor-mative practices and the perception of time and space. That interest resonates in her installations as well as her still and moving images, on performance and spectacle, the subjective camera and the exploration of vernacular, as well as her explorations of landscape and ecological history.

Mangolte arrived in New York from Paris in 1970, at a time when the Manhattan Downtown art and performance scene offered the artistic means for site-specific, socially aware and process-based art practices that found their expression not just in live action, but also in photography, video and film. Mangolte, inspired by what she saw, regularly documented the performance work of artists such as Robert Whitman, Stuart Sherman and Joan Jonas, dancers such as Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown, as well as theatre directors like Richard Foreman and Robert Wilson. While photography had brought Mangolte to performance art, the subject of photography in her films led her to make work about looking as well as the production of art, mirrored within the work of the artists, the dancers and the performers she followed. Mangolte captured and gave vision to the key aspects of the time: the rejection of ontological self-reflexivity, the use of operational time, literalism and the effect of space on seeing.2 In her early films such as What Maisie Knew (1974), The Camera: Je, La Caméra: I (1977), Water Motor (1978) and The Cold Eye (My Darling Be Careful) (1980), the dynamic between the recording apparatus, its subjects and the prota-gonists is central to her aim for the audience “to reassess the way they look at film.”3 It was in these years that Mangolte’s ongoing interest in how we understand the present through the past developed, and it would remain an incentive for her films on the stagings of historical performances, such as Four Pieces for Morris (1993) and Seven Easy Pieces by Marina Abramovic (2007).

In her installations Looking and Touching (2007), Movement and Stills (2010) and the new Rushes Revisited (2012), Mangolte explores her own continuous re-reading of the scenography and setup of her first exhibition How to Look… (1978), which she created for the then newly founded PS1 in Long Island City, New York. How to Look… was a three-dimensional extension of her first feature-length film, The Camera: Je, La Caméra: I, and an early example of Mangolte’s unique capacity to differentiate and articulate the medium of film within photography, and vice versa, through various performative practices.

From early on, Mangolte anticipated performance art’s expansion from a mode of self-expression rooted in the “live-event” to a time- and site-specific practice—a mode of production that continues to explore the push and pull between the immediacy of the archive and the spectacle of cultural memory.

Mangolte’s installations and videos address the relationship of the human body within space, examining the visibility of the invisible that determines our cognitive capacities. Particularly in her latest work, Éloge du Vert (2012-2013), she explores how we perceive and experience space and the passing of time through digital media. She intertwines the time specificity and shifting aesthetics of past and present media by juxtaposing two temporal moments of her own work: on the one hand, her past studies in film on the human body in urban space, and on the other hand, the loss of the colour green and the changing sense of space through the digitalization of media.

Babette Mangolte reflects the collective imaginary of the aesthetics linked with conceptual and performative practices of the past in the echo of today’s desire to create an aesthetic of timelessness. She nourishes the cultural memory of an entire decade and the ways in which performance-based work is essential to as well as emblematic of our contemporary desire to look back at the past to better understand the present and the future.

1. The film retrospective will be on view at the Cinémathèque québécoise in April 2013. For screening times, see
2. Mangolte was known throughout the 1970s and 1980s as a cinematographer for avant-garde filmmakers such as Chantal Akerman, Yvonne Rainer, Michael Snow and Jean-Pierre Gorin. For further analysis of her films, see Malcolm Turvey, “A Neutral… Average Way of Looking at Things,” in Framework: The Journal of Cinema & Media, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Spring 2004).
3. Jackie Lansley, “Babette Mangolte: Cinematographer and Filmmaker in Discussion with Jackie Lansley,” Dance Now, No. 21 (March 1982), p. 4.

Other Events

Babette Mangolte will be giving a conference as part of the series Programme ICI at UQAM. Wednesday January 23 at 12:30 PM, Room R-M120, UQAM. (400, Ste-Catherine Street East, Berri-UQAM Metro)

Babette Mangolte, la Femme à la caméra : a film retrospective from April 4 to April 14, 2013 at the Cinémathèque québécoise


Babette Mangolte

Babette Mangolte (American, born in France) is an internationally known experimental filmmaker and photographer who has lived in New York City since 1970. Among her most recent films…

Read more


Interview with Babette Mangolte during her exhibition.

See interview

Journal # 40 - 01.2013

Read the online journal for the exhibition Babette Mangolte

ÉLOGE DU VERT (Hommage to the Colour Green)


Éloge du Vert is a new installation about the colour green and how it is changing because of global warming. The architectural space for the installation Éloge du Vert cannot be viewed in one glance when one enters the room and discovers the digital prints lining the room walls as well as three standing walls used as film screens. The centre of the room, defined by the space between those three walls, is both a void, since nothing is there, and a magnet, because of its bright light.

Green is a colour found in vegetation, in various shades, which a painter can recreate by mixing variable amounts of blue and yellow with white and black. The colour green is never seen as pure colour, but as a mix of multiple shades of green leaning toward blue or yellow. That extreme variability was an irresistible motivation to chronicle the fragmented landscape I see around me. The drier the climate, the more silvery the green of the leaves, which are often also darker and smaller, while in more humid locations, green turns saturated, lighter and fuller.

It was in the torrid summer of 2006 in France that I started collecting photographs and videos about a colour that I am expecting to change as global warming accelerates. I am fascinated by images of what could vanish. That has been my principal impulse since my first photograph in 1963.

Observing the changing tones of green affected by higher temperature and lower levels of humidity was actually interesting to do, as you don’t know, until you place images of the same motif taken in different years side by side, whether your guess about the colour changes will be confirmed. The difference across several years is slow, and the change is not shown by a movement, like in a movie, but by a collage, like in a composite print.

We perceive the same colour differently on a static image and on a moving one, so the installation includes both colour photographs and colour moving images. Colour—any colour, not just green—needs a neutral white light (like photographic daylight) to be seen with no distortion introduced by the ambient light, which in a gallery or museum is always very yellow. That is why I decided to use the video projector light, which is photographic daylight, as the light source for the prints shown on the walls. The viewer gravitates to the prints when they are lit by the blank film screen projecting pure white light, or to the film projection on the three screens. I have created an apparatus that requires the viewer to be reactive to stimuli of light rather than to thematic associations between two sources of images that cannot be seen at the same time. But those associations will still occur randomly, depending on when the viewer shifts his or her glance from the still images to the filmed images.

I am interested in creating distraction and fragmentation of the viewing apparatus. Landscape is never still. Changes occur slowly, year by year. I am aiming at making those changes visible. Éloge du Vert is a project dedicated to a concept of time that is about slow changes.