– Spring 2010

Babette Mangolte in conversation with Elena Filipovic

Elena Filipovic

Babette Mangolte, cinematography for Trisha Brown, Water Motor, 1978, dance performance, 2.5min. Frame capture

Babette Mangolte, cinematography for Trisha Brown, Water Motor, 1978, dance performance, 2.5min. Frame capture

With a keen sense of the historical, Babette Mangolte's installation How to Look, on view at the Whitney Biennial in New York from 25 February to 30 May 2010, reworks an exhibition of Mangolte's held at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 1978, transforming its objectives and the context in which it will be shown. The original installation focused on the idea of choice: the viewer was presented with a wall covered with 441 black-and-white photographs organised in panels that, from left to right, went from figurative portraits to composite images bordering on abstraction, and two identical sets of 52 photographic playing cards, laying on a table, that could be manipulated and re-organised. In the 2010 show, the wall has been re-installed, the photo cards on the table are encased behind glass, and a film shows the manipulation of the photocards. The installation tests how ones look at photographs when they are in a context that alternates between large-scale exhibition and small variations in theme,while the film plays with the idea of destruction.

In the following interview, Babettte Mangolte and curator Elena Filipovic speak about Mangolte's introduction to and involvement in the experimental theatre, film and dance scenes of New York in the 1970s, and her own films of that period. (As well as being an artist in her own right, Mangolte was the photographer and cinematographer for Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Joan Jonas and others.) Their discussion investigates notions of representing the work of others, what it means to film with movement and Mangolte's interest in subjectivity and narrative.

Elena Filipovic: You were one of the very few women working as a camerawoman on cinema crews in

  1. As defined by P. Adams Sitney in P.A. Sitney, Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.

  2. Madeleine Bernstorff and Klaus Volkmer at the Arsenal Berlin and at the Munich Cinémathèque organised Mangolte's first film retrospective in 2000. It combined some of her cinematographic work, as well as all of her films. In 2006 Anthology Film Archives in New York premiered Mangolte's film Les Modèles de Pickpocket (2003), accompanied by a retrospective of all her films and some of her cinematographic works.

  3. Babette Mangolte, 'A Matter of Time: Analog versus Digital, The Perennial Question of Shifting Technology and Its Implications for an Experimental Filmmaker's Odyssey', in Richard Allen and Malcolm Turvey (ed.), Camera Lucida, Camera Obscura: Essays in Honour of Annette Michelson, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2003.