Celebration (Cyprus Street) is a film project by Melanie Manchot that is based on the rich history of public street parties in London’s East End. Commissioned by FVU, and developed as part of a residency in East London undertaken in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery, the film draws inspiration from the tradition of group portraiture in historic newsreel footage and photographs recording these events. Filmed as a 35mm tracking shot that pivots on a central, durational group portrait, the piece investigates the relation between still and moving images, between photography and film.
To make Celebration, Manchot worked with the residents of Cyprus Street in Bethnal Green over a period of six months, collaborating on preparations for the party and inviting active participation in the film. The work engages with the East End as a point of arrival to the capital and to Britain. It acknowledges the waves of migration passing through East London over the last centuries and articulates the current make-up of streets as complex multicultural units.
Celebration (Cyprus Street) was shown alongside a new series of photographs of some of the residents and a display of archive footage of street celebrations marking national and local events from jubilees to historic VE Day parties. Manchot spent two years developing the project, undertaking archive and oral history research on street parties and their representations. An earlier manifestation of the research stages of the project was presented, also in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery, as part of their programme, The Street, in early 2009.
Celebration (Cyprus Street) was presented with a new piece Walk (Square) – a video portrait of a massed congregation of schoolchildren assembling in a city square in Hamburg. This double-header formed the basis of Manchot’s solo exhibition, Gathering, at Fabrica in Brighton.