Archive for the Practice experiments Category

Detroit – Street Photography

Posted in My practice, Photography, Practice experiments with tags , , on January 31, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

I was sent to Detroit last week for my day job and was able to take a few pictures. However I had limited free time during daylight, limited access to a car, and no time to find a local guide in advance, so the possibilities were rather limited.

As said in a previous post about Ghost towns in the USA, there are loads of abandoned houses all over Detroit. However, some of these areas are very dangerous and the Ghost Houses in the relatively safe areas are often inhabited by junkies, so it’s not safe to go in without a couple of tough local guys. Sadly, I had to look from the street, however frustrating that was!


Those street photographs have nothing special about them but I really like the light in them, I think it has a ‘Stephen Shore’ feel to it 🙂 I was lucky to have such beautiful ‘American dream technicolor’ light that contrasted with the general setting of urban decay. I would have liked to take more photographs of large freeways lined with abandoned buildings because outdoor photographs were safe enough to take, but sadly I had to give back the car to the day-job-colleague I was sharing it with. I hope to be able to go back for a proper art trip and be free of these frustrating limitations.



Traffic lights dangling from a cable over a deserted street: an iconic ‘Twin Peaks’ image!


The corridor from my hotel which reminded me of Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’.


This is the ballroom from the hotel which for some reason caught my eye. It looked like a set from a Roy Andersson movie in its creepy blandness.


The Mc Donald logo and Spangled banner juxtaposition is so very cliché, but I could not resist 🙂 (but WordPress does and censors the flag on the right !)


The hotel, ubiquitous malls and 6 lane streets made me think a lot of Marc Augé’s book ‘No Places’ (‘Non lieux’).


St John’s College Library, Cambridge.

Posted in My practice, Photography, Practice experiments with tags , , on January 30, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

Thanks to a friend librarian at St John’s College library, Cambridge, I was allowed to take pictures inside. I also wanted to make videos but I could not find any way to make travelling shots that were interesting and long enough, due to the layout of the bookcases. I wanted to make images in the atmosphere of Alain Resnais’ ‘Toute la mémoire du Monde’ but was a bit disappointed with the final result, due to the library layout that forbade any interesting shot apart from close ups, and light from the windows always causing reflections on the books.

This is the best picture I managed 😦

St John's College Library, Cambridge.

I quite like this stairs picture though. I think it looks striking even though a bit cliche. Sometimes there is a simple reason why many artists end up repeating a standard picture: because it works!

St John's College Library, Cambridge.

Photographs from the Catacombes of Paris (December 2010)

Posted in My practice, Photography, Practice experiments with tags , on January 30, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

In December 2010, I shot photographs and videos in the Catacombes of Paris. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, bones from the inner city cemeteries in Paris were transfered to disused quarries because overflowing cemeteries caused sanitary problems. Since then, The Paris catacombes have been a source of inspiration for literature and art.

Here are a few preview pictures. I have not done anything clever with the photographs and video footage yet. Some pictures have annoying shadows because the poor light conditions forced me to use a pocket lamp sometimes, even with very long exposure. I need to find a way to edit those unwanted shadows out (for example on the picture with the cross), possibly using a light gradient. Otherwise I think there is the potential to make some of these black and white pictures very striking by playing with the light and contrast. I am still unsure what to do with the video footage, other than a pure short documentary.






‘Festive Spirit’ Photographs

Posted in My practice, Photography, Practice experiments with tags on January 20, 2011 by melaniemenardarts

In December 2009, I took a few photographs inspired by the ironic tone of Lars Tunbjörk series ‘Vinter’. I just stumbled upon a scene that I found amusing and took pictures.

Festive Spirit 2

Festive Spirit 1

Comments on my work for MPR

Posted in MADA Coursework, My practice, Practice experiments on April 18, 2010 by melaniemenardarts

Here are my fellow MADA students’ comments on my work for the Mid Point Review. I’ll write a response to them later this week (either edit in this post or post a separate reply). Thank you all for your suggestions and cooperation !

Melanie Menard (m_menard)
ok so I’m exploring individuals’ relationship to space using so far still and moving image, and I’d like to use moving image installation later how people subjectively perceive places around them (memory,
fantasies, urban legends to give examples) and in return how places affect people (the feelings of someone imprisoned so far, maybe after other forms of alienation)
now what I’m interested in doing, and unsure about because it’s difficult, is I’d like my images to talk to people on the instinctive level, not just the intellectual/art level
both because of the subject matter and because it’s important to me that the images are able to talk to someone without the academic background to be interested in the usual artist blurb
OK, I think that’s it !
Also I’m more interested in honesty/candid, so don’t be afraid to say what you think. Even if you upset me accidentally, I won’t be upset long so please don’t worry 🙂

Jonathan Kearney (jkearney)
the discussion here so far is around – why the abandoned spaces, what it the reason for using these?
they give a creepy feeling but is that too obvious – does it need more subtlety
for example a space that is usually filled but when filmed empty creates a different feeling

Christalla Kyriacou (ckyriacou2)
the first video i found really effective particularly that it was filmed in the way of leaving behind what I was seeing primarily , darkness provoked unknowns and fear and beautiful falling light in the empty spaces gave way to the understanding of life once preoccupying the space, the element of video though gave it a hint of cinematic movie , so this gave me a small impression of it being set up and not
actually straight documentary , even though the scenes shown are of true / real content , the video medium gave it that small hint of edited out realities

Maya Chami (mayachami)

David Tatnell (davidtatnell)
the videos are well shot and I felt a definite feeling of isolation

Satbinder Kooner (skooner)
The second video for me created more of a presence of memories, the past

David Tatnell (davidtatnell)
I think adding effects will enable Melanie to steer the viewer to other emotions

Satbinder Kooner (skooner)
that there was life there at some point

Maya Chami (mayachami)
For me, the blurbs at the end of the written part just located me geographically, but honestly didn’t need that bit. I was able to connect with the footage at once, for the pictures Melanie has taken
have a lot in common with post civil war places as well.

Jonathan Kearney (jkearney)
when asking what the instinctive reaction is – Ethel points out that you can only have an ‘instinctive reaction’ once…

David Tatnell (davidtatnell)
the use of camera angles in clever too some of them are quite intimidating

Jonathan Kearney (jkearney)
so are you asking people to think about these films or just ‘feel’ them?

Satbinder Kooner (skooner)
David – yes the angles differ in the two videos giving a different feel

Maya Chami (mayachami)
An artwork worked genuinely will be enough for the viewer to grasp or interact. There’s no need for the viewer to really understand what is happening, the effect of an artwork could be that of inspiring the

Jonathan Kearney (jkearney)
there is a danger that aiming just at instinctive reactions then it is short lived, maybe the focus needs to be more on the ongoing impact of the films

David Tatnell (davidtatnell)
emotions before and after

Christalla Kyriacou (ckyriacou2)
as for the images I see on your blog don’t give me the feeling that I am being edited on what I can see, I guess photographs have that special quality instilled in them , truth 🙂 I really find Melanie’s project very interesting and particularly that it plays on a level of insecurities of anyone who sees the images or video , abandonment is a scary thing , its fearful and haunting ,,, it’s almost like a new life starts in the rooms where the previous ones have left

Satbinder Kooner (skooner)
I agree Christalla

Jonathan Kearney (jkearney)
some here are saying – the idea of a photograph holding truth is contentious – maybe better to say ‘the illusion of truth’ in a photograph

Christalla Kyriacou (ckyriacou2)
that’s what I meant , its just that cause its a historical process it just feels more truthful ,, its a little tricky 🙂

Jonathan Kearney (jkearney)
some confusion here as to why the deep intellectual context for this work, but then you are asking for just an instinctive response
one suggestion here is filming the ordinary, ‘extremely’ ordinary – this gives room for the viewer to forming their own conclusions rather then just instinctive reactions
a bit like Hopper’s paintings
or the photographs of Martin Parr
also Arbus’ – slightly strange images
Ina suggests the angles of filming suggest to her a horror type film feeling but that maybe focusing on the ‘DNA’ of the space – what is the essence of a particular space, eg, is it colour, the shape – then
maybe take that ‘DNA’ and let that define the filming technique and use it to film a very different type of space
maybe use the colour profile of the outside space for the filming of the inside space

Andrew Stiff (astiff)
Times up
Melanie Menard (m_menard)
thank you people for your comments and ideas 🙂 I’ll reply to them on the blog once I’ve had a bit of time to think about them !

Andrew Stiff (astiff)
Thanks Melanie its gone down well here – lots of discussion around this work 😉

Additional comments from Sat:
Hi Melanie
Video 1 – A building uninhabited, empty, desolate, eerie, spooky – felt more factual / like we are being shown the inside of an empty building and the state of the inside of it.
Video 2 – made me think who lived there what was this building, the focus on images and belongings made think more about the people who possessed these, that they believed in religion, in Jesus. I kept thinking someone would appear in this video.
Hope this makes sense.

Additional comments from Matt:

Hi Melanie,
Below is some feedback on your practical work…
For me the two videos were similar in feel. I guess the feelings I get are isolation, desolation and tension.

The parts I felt were most effective were where the camera movement was quite erratic. Almost Blare Which project, but in a good way! The jogging camera I liked because I could only see glimpses of objects and spaces – a little more abstract and tension filled.

I also like the zooming out sections where a wider/ unexpected context was revealed (Especially the mirror where you are unaware of this at first). I think the zooming out shots would be much more effective if projected at a large scale – a bit more immersive (Obviously youtube is a bit restrictive).

The blurbs were very descriptive of the content. Maybe the text can add another layer. Do the words illustrate the visual work? Do the words and pictures send the same or different messages? Can the words add or amplify the image and vice versa? Can they work in parallel, following very different courses?

MA Digital Arts – Midpoint Review Presentation and Evaluation

Posted in Audience Response, Critical theory, Disciplinary Institutions, Ghost House, MADA Coursework, My practice, Practice experiments with tags , , , on April 7, 2010 by melaniemenardarts



Hello fellow MADA 1st year students !

For optimal results, please watch the visual presentation on you tube before reading the written evaluation. (You just have to read this post linearly from beginning to end.)

Thank you !


Visual presentation

I am of course interested in your thoughtful feedback as an artist/academic with cultural references, but also in your instinctive reactions as an individual. This is why I am asking you to watch the visual presentation before reading the evaluation of my project. I want to recreate the conditions in which a random passerby may see an artwork on the internet or in a gallery window, without knowing anything about it, without having even looked at the title yet. This person may not know anything about contemporary art. They may be walking down the street and notice a picture, or have randomly found a video on youtube. What will this person see in the art work? Will the image grab their attention? Will the image awaken feelings/moods/questions in them, despite the absence of cultural context? Making artworks that are able to establish direct communication with the viewer, without the need for explanations or comments is a big concern in my practice. This experiment is designed to find out in which measure I have succeeded or failed so far.

In the visual presentation, you will be shown excerpts from 2 videos, stripped of title, music and context. These videos are made from edited footage, but have no special effects yet. I would like you to watch these videos candidly, without a priori. For the 6 minutes of the presentation, please try and forget (temporarily) about the academic context and watch them not as coursework, but as your Friday night movie or a museum on holidays. This is the closest way I could artificially recreate the situation described above. Please focus on your subjective experience as a viewer. Do the images grab your attention or fail to do so ? Do they create any feelings/moods/reflexions in you? If so which? Do the 2 videos have different, identical or similar feelings to you ? Please tell me anything that crosses your mind.

Watch the visual presentation on youtube


Please do not read anything below until you have watched the visual presentation and followed the instructions !

Thank you !

500 word auto-evaluation


My project is about the relationships between places and individuals, observed through 2 main viewpoints:
1) how the physical world is subjectively perceived by individuals, and intersects with their inner world.
2) how space influence individuals’ psyches. This may take a more political aspect by exploring themes of imprisonment and deprivation of private space.

In the theoretical research, I got mainly interested in:
1) Documentary-type (i.e. not staged) photography, both through its link to Surrealism and in its contemporary form. Surrealist documentary aims to physically reveal “surreality”, the higher perception where dream and reality merge. In contemporary practice, the concept of subjective documentary, that says more about the person that makes it than about the documented subject itself.
2) The concept of “chronotope”: the way space is intrinsically linked to time in the context of memory.
3) Manipulating the viewer’s perceptions/feelings using moving image techniques.
4) How much the meaning/impact of an artwork comes from the raw images themselves, and how much comes from the critical comment accompanying them.

In practice, I have mainly edited raw footage shot in abandoned buildings last summer (in prevision of the MA), aiming to use editing techniques in order to create specific atmospheres that would trigger specific feelings.

Work plan

Issue 1: I come from photography. I have lots of references in cinema but know little about video art. In photography, striking symbolic images stand by themselves. In cinema, such atmospheric images come in between bits of informative narrative. I am still unsure about video art as a language: is it a succession of symbolic sequences deprived of narrative ? Or am I missing something ? Do I want to make pure visual video art or do I want to tell stories (even ambiguous ones) but do not know yet how to do it ? Do moving images without narrative get boring for the audience ?

Issue 2: So far I have only used unstaged/documentary type footage. I planned to incorporate staged images, mostly in order to depict dreams. How do I make the staged images ? I am concerned about them looking kitsch (due to lack of budget), too litteral or too didactic (textbook symbolism).

Issue 3: How can I use new digital technologies (rather than pure traditional still/moving image) to serve my purpose, not just for the sake of being modern ? The main idea is to make immersive installations that make the world of the moving images more real to the viewer than traditional projection on a screen. I have not studied the practical/technical feasibility of installations at all yet.

Issue 4: Can I use the still photographs in an innovative way ?

Other practical tasks:
1) start using special effects on the video software
2) shall I try making my own soundtracks or continue using work from a proper musician ?

Further theoretical research:
1) the mechanism of memory
2) dream symbolism


Constructive comments

After reading this project evaluation, please submit your comments as a student/artist/academic as well as your comments as an individual viewer (as requested in the visual presentation). If your experience on these 2 different levels differs sensibly, please make sure to state clearly on which level you are commenting, since I won’t be able to request clarification of ambiguities while you are commenting on my work. Thank you for your help and cooperation!

For your information, the titles and commercial/critical blurbs usually accompanying the 2 videos were:

Video 1: Disciplinary Institutions

In “Disciplinary Institutions”, I explore places used to make undesirable and/or helpless people disappear discretely such as Magdalene convents (used to imprison women), mental asylums and workhouses. I am interested in showing how the long gone inmates keep imprinting these places long after they are dead, and the malevolent aura still cast by those buildings.

Video 2: Ghost House

The Ghost House series was shot at several abandoned houses in Ireland, whose last occupants probably left 10 to 30 years ago. Traces of their lives and aspirations, and of the disillusions and hardships
that made them leave their homeland, remained in the form of scattered personal belongings.

Do those blurbs influence your perception of the images ?
If so, do they:
– help you get interested in the artwork (while the images alone left you cold) ?
– change your perception of the images ?
– confirm your intuitive perception of the images ?


Posted in My practice, Photography, Practice experiments, Urban Exploration with tags , on October 25, 2009 by melaniemenardarts

Dérive in Blainville Crevon, birthplace of Marcel Duchamp, in search of oddities.

DadaDérive slideshow

Does anybody know why it does not work to copy the html to embed a flicker slideshow on wordpress ? wordpress just deletes the html (while in html edit mode …)

Also does anybody know which photo website geotags on google maps ? I have seen geotagged pictures while looking at maps on google but flickr only geotags via yahoo maps (obviously it’s the same company).

Thank you !