In July 1992 Melanie began working with Kirsten Lavers (Installation artist) on a series of site-specific Live Art works. Their collaboration was called The Zwillinge Project. Zwillinge is the German word for twins.
The Zwillinge Project made 10 episodes / performances in response to a variety of sites, ranging from a hotel in Hull (episode 6) to a week long walk around the city of Bristol examining the issue of homelessness (episode 10).
Episode 11 – May 1997 – Presented 3 hour slide / lecture of all episodes and overview of whole project at Leicester University and Crewe and Alsager University -entitled Conversing with Sites
Throughout 1997 and 1998 Melanie presented the lecture within G.B, institutions visiting: University of the West of England, Nottingham Trent University, Dartington College of Arts, Cheltenham College of Arts and Cardiff Art School.
Episode 12 – February 1998 – Launched the final catalogue /documentation of the whole of the Zwillinge Project in a series of 10 limited edition books.
THE ZWILLINGE PROJECT received funding support from Eastern Arts, South West Arts, Hull Time Based Arts and The Arts Council Of England
Their work is involved with responding to and re-visioning sites, drawing associations from them and bringing to them the ongoing pre-occupations of the artists, in a sense each piece composes a new site geography. It is also live work which is in part about the process of composing an artist’s life, bringing together materials and events with personal and artistic resonances which explore the process of unravelling and exchanging meanings over the shadow line which exists between being an artist and a private person. Clare McDonald
Review – Eric Laurier cultural geographer
What the Zwillinge Project achieved in their final episode was to take their art out of the gallery, engage it with social issues and to reclaim the city itself as a place for excitment, mystery and meaningful encounter.
Nine sites in the city centre were linked in a circular route. At the first site, the Arnolfini Gallery, an encapsulated colour map was issued to participants which had the route marked and a series of instructions. The happenings at each site were kept a secret and this produced an effect more like the pursuit of a paper chase or the revelations of a detective story than the serious contemplation of a work of art. For the two walkers I was with, who are infrequent gallery visitors, this had a remarkable effect, they began highly sceptical but after visiting site number two were anxious to find out what happened next. And as the art was happening outside of the socially exclusive space of the gallery they were much more comfortable about interpreting what it meant for them. As was I.
Site No.2 was a block of system built council flats which we we entered by dialling through the door intercom and taking a lift up to a deck walkway. At the flat a project assistant ushered us into what was clearly a dis-used flat – unfurnished and piled up with old mail. The front room was separated from the rest of the flat by a piece of perspex through which we could see and hear a researcher telephoning. Each call consisted of a question, ‘what is the difference between a house and a home?’ In the three bare rooms upstairs the responses to the previous calls were sellotaped to the walls. The sense of mass testimony was both incredible and unexpected – there were thoughtful and brief statements, insults, banalities and answerphone messages. The project had moved us from the public space of a gallery through equally public streets into the private world of a council flat and then put the public back in there through a telephonic connected-ness.
The sites that followed included: a small house being constructed within the sheltering walls of a bombed out roofless church, a floating performer who appeared to be begging but was actually ‘offering’ small houses made from photograph self portraits, a banner only visible from the top of the Cabot Tower which demanded “WHAT DO YOU NOTICE?” and the city Library’s newspaper reading room where participants were directed to search out a number of stories from the day’s newspapers.
At Site No. 5 – an underpass where homeless people often gather, participants were told that somet©hing would happen every fifteen minutes. This forced a kind of looking which might usually be avoided in such a place. On the quarter hour one of the public telephones rang allowing participants to answer for themselves the question first posed at Site No.2. The final site was a nightshelter where participants had the chance to talk with homeless people, the artists and each other.
In between the nine main islands the project maintained an attentive gaze upon Bristol’s urban fabric by placing small white plaster houses in nooks and crannies normally overlooked by rushing pedestrians. The search for the white houses effectively re-charged the concrete city with meaning and the artists prefigured this renewed attention in their instructions – “Try to look and notice as if for the first time”
I was profoundly impressed by Episode 10 – Archipelago, Bristol.