A woman talks about spending the money for her daughter’s first communion on drugs. A man writes on a blackboard how he feels upon awakening: ‘I woke up feeling caring; I woke up feeling sad; I woke up hoping my dad is happy with me; I woke up feeling sad again…’ A man trims the grass of a roadside verge with small scissors. A man in a carwash explains how drink and drugs trick your brain. Addiction holds a perennial fascination for artists; they see it as a corollary to their own recasting of the world. But addiction, needless to say, brings problems with it, and it’s these that ‘Twelve’ struggles with.
Over two years, London-based Melanie Manchot gathered testimony from 12 recovering substance abusers, then used the material to create a multi-channel video installation. It’s very like the realities of being an addict: unfocused, self-obsessed, repetitive, and given to going off at tangents.
For some unexplained reason, Manchot includes references to the works of filmmakers including Béla Tarr, Michael Haneke and Gus Van Sant, none of which I got (I don’t think there’s a scene in ‘Drugstore Cowboy’ featuring the Mersey Ferry, but it’s a long time since I’ve seen it). Ironically, given the subject, it’s substance that ‘Twelve’ lacks. It feels like the viewer’s response to the material is taken for granted, allowing Manchot to impose her stylistic quirks. It could have been really good if she’d just had a bit more faith in her audience and in her subjects, which is odd, given that this a show about people who often have none in themselves.