Hardly any other sport seems, for a short moment, to approach the perfect illusion as closely as ski jumping. Year after year television once again shows us sportsmen who seem to sail weightlessly through the air, cheering spectators and euphoric reporters. The British artist Melanie Manchot’s images also examine these sporting events. Inspired by Werner Herzog’s documentary Die Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner (1974), however, she presents the spectacle in a different light.
An alpine landscape at night, surrounded by Swiss mountains, the snow-covered, pristine ski-jump, the monotonous sound of snow machines, the dazzling floodlights. All these turn the venue into a picturesque scene in which the frenzy of the competition is not yet visible. The scenes of this two-channel video work are shown in parallel. In them Manchot contradicts the typical impression given by the television reports, that most of the ski jumpers are superhuman. During the competition the camera observes the young contestants in the waiting room while they are readying themselves for the decisive jump. Close-ups of their faces reveal not merely their concentration and their focussing on victory, but also the tension and the nervousness just before it’s their turn. Unlike the TV pictures, however, Manchot denies us the resolution– the liberation of a successful landing – by leaving the typical picture of their flight to the viewer. Only an acoustic reference – the hiss of their skis on the in-run – provides an impression of the decisive moment, the take off, when all tension falls away. (Agnieszka Smyrek)
* We can only show an excerpt of this work in the online archive. For the complete version, please contact the artist and Galerie m, Bochum.