Steven Cairns, 'Babette Mangolte' (Artforum Online, 11/2010)
Babette Mangolte’s career was founded on collaboration; her important role in the 1970s New York experimental dance and performance scene grows out of her work as a cinematographer and photographer of many of its key players’ pieces, including those by Lucinda Childs and Yvonne Rainer. This exhibition, Mangolte’s first in Scotland, is dedicated to her collaborations with Rainer, and it includes her first film, What Maisie Knew, 1975, which is shown alongside a selection of photographs taken during several of Rainer’s performances of the same period.
The film outlines Mangolte’s affinities with experimental dance, capturing Rainer with a full cast, including composer Philip Glass, in a narrative that unfolds through association and repetition of meticulously composed scenes. It offers little dialogue, and its haunting sound track graciously underpins its slow-moving scenarios and tableaux. In her photographs, Mangolte’s fluid shift between the still and the moving image are clearly articulated in works such as 1972’s Shooting of Yvonne Rainer’s Film “Lives of Performers,” which documents the act of filmmaking itself.
Other neatly composed photographs, including those of Rainer’s performance Boxes, 1973, translate perfectly into flat photographic planes of gradual tone and solid blocks of black and white, acting equally as documentation and as pieces in their own right. Taken as a whole, this selection of works depicts the many, complex sides of both Mangolte and Rainer’s practices.