Melanie Manchot uses photography, video, and film to explore performative situations, often portraying the individual in relation to public space. Situated on the threshold between documentary and the staged event, her work frequently involves the participation of strangers as a way to reflect on modes of individual and collective experience.

Throughout her work, Manchot examines the formats and meanings of portraiture, as well as the conflicts that may exist in its relationship to issues of subjectivity and representation. Focusing on specific groups of people, the artist creates the circumstances that bring them together, using her camera as the organizing principle to structure the event. Within her practice, an engagement with group portraiture is a continuous thematic and her projects often refer to specific archives and the history of vernacular photography.

For this commission, Manchot worked with the Distillery’s rich and varied photographic archive to create a new series of images, each one displayed alongside the historic photograph it refers to. Taking its title from an image in the archive, The Continuous Still presents portraits of large and smaller groups (e.g., the Distillery’s staff or management, in the past and present day) and an iconic bird’s-eye view of the site. By creating a series of portraits of the Distillery’s working population, the artist investigates processes of identification in relation to labour, location, and community. When presented in combination with their archival precedents, Manchot’s images contribute to the site’s history while enhancing its significance as a thriving community in the present.

Presented in partnership with The Distillery Historic District and the Goethe Institute. Supported by Celebrate Ontario and Vistek.