Babette Mangolte interviewed by Barbara Clausen and Kristin Poor, September 9, 2020.
Babette Mangolte is a French-American experimental filmmaker and photographer who is known internationally and lives in New York. Mangolte’s early interests lay within the field of performance: documenting the art, dance, and theater scene of the 1970s. In the late 1970s she began to focus on the urban environment and the vast landscapes of the U.S. West Coast. Babette Mangolte was the cinematographer for Chantal Akerman, Yvonne Rainer, and others. Films by Babette Mangolte include What Maisie Knew (1974),The Camera: Je or La Camera: I (1977), The Cold Eye (1980), The Sky on Location (1982), Visible Cities (1991) and Four Pieces by Morris (1993). One of her most recent films is Seven Easy Pieces (2007) which documents Marina Abramović’s re-enactment of seminal works from the 1970s at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This interview focuses on Mangolte’s approach to photographing Jonas’s performances.
- “Babette Mangolte interviewed by Barbara Clausen and Kristin Poor, September 9, 2020 (Interview Transcript).” Joan Jonas Knowledge Base, Artist Archives Initiative, 2021.
This interview begins with Mangolte speaking about how she met and starting working with Jonas, explaining that the first performance she ever saw by Jonas was Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy at Galleria L’Attico, Rome in 1972. Mangolte goes on to state that she began working with Jonas through Linda Patton, Jonas’s camerawoman at the time. From this point, Mangolte describes what excited her about working with Jonas in the early 1970s, explaining that she was able to go to Europe with Jonas and how she improvised with the camera. Mangolte recounts her approach to choosing the angles and the moments of each performance that she wanted to capture with the still camera. She also describes whether or not she had any preemptive plans for how she would photograph Jonas’s performances, specifically for Funnel, Organic Honey, and Mirage. During this time Mangolte also touches on her process of photographing with an audience present and how she incorporated them into the composition of the space. Moving on, Clausen has Mangolte compare the stage and studio performances that she shot with her camera, like Glass Puzzle, to Jonas’s live performances and asks her to expand on how she operated in those different environments. One element Mangolte speaks on during this time is lighting, touching on how lighting can change between a studio performance and a live performance. The interview then shifts focus to post-performance and what happened to the photographs after Mangolte took them, how she selected images afterwards, and what the working process with Joan was like. Mangolte states that she would often bring Jonas the contact sheets and she would decide on some photographs to be printed. This transitions to a conversation about Mangolte’s archive and her approach to archiving her own work. The interview ends with Mangolte sharing advice for younger photographers and cinematographers today who want to shoot and document performance art.
- Clausen, Barbara. “A Conversation: Babette Mangolte and Joan Jonas.” In After the Act: The (Re)Presentation of Performance Art, edited by Barbara Clausen, 51–65. Vienna: MUMOK Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, 2006.