Nicolas Manenti (b. 1980, Albertville, France, lives and works in Gouda, The Netherlands) focuses on the social spaces of what we call a “westernized” society. Lampooning the archetypes of capitalism and values such as competitiveness, work, or utilitarianism, his works are filled with the cold monuments, costumes, and decorum of an ideal modern society. But the ominous tension that emanates from the collapsed furniture pieces, the laborious gestures or the petty jokes that Nicolas raises into absurd proportions remind us of the Kafkaesque situations that our body and mind often face in these environments: “My first artworks, he says, were to film silly actions done at a workplace in France. I was as a night watchman and found myself in a paradoxical situation: I was in a deserted office, at night, but being subcontracted by an exterior firm, I did not belong to the company the place belonged to. Literally paid to strictly do nothing, I felt for the first time the huge gap between the morality of work and the reality of employment”.
Since then, Manenti continues to meditate these experiences in a vast diversity of ways: from the void authoritarian gestures of The Long Arm to the subversive praise of laziness of Legal Mentions, he continues to sharpen his perplexed view on the hardworking world.
Next to the abundant corporate imagery of his works, Manenti devotes himself to a set of more abstract projects, marked by the establishment of long, painful and repetitive processes, which leads to the accumulation of altered, aberrant or paradoxical information. The notion of time holds a central position, and by colliding several aspects of it, it seems to show History in accelerated mode: as if working time collided with the work of Time. In Taphonomies or Implantations, the manual task of copying a document with an inappropriate tool, an aggressive manner, or by the simple stacking of duplicates, sabotages the preservation of the document while paradoxically revealing the very process of its degradation. In other works, such as Timelines or 20 Inestimable Tableaux, it is a laborious work of enumeration and repetition, with the introduction of errors that question our comfort of thought about the value of information, our perception of time and History.
By addressing the chaos, boredom and obsessions hidden under the sophisticated rug of our engineered environments, Nicolas Manenti demonstrates the fallacy of rhetoric techniques disguised as moral values.