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Creative Practice as a Form of Research: Melanie Manos

Learners will gain insight into art-based research methods, directly from artist Melanie Manos.
<v ->Creative practice can be a form of research.</v> Just like scientists work with a variety of liquids or materials in their research toward new discoveries, artists work with tools, materials, and processes in their research toward creating a new artwork. In an earlier activity, learners were invited to discover ways paper could be used in art making besides as a surface for drawing. That was material space research, well done.
In this video, artist Melanie Manose is going to share some of the research process in creating “Swing’em.” Hi, me again, when I was devising performances based on gender bias in the workplace, I was thinking how are you supposed to dress for an office job, what’s the expectation? Maybe pants but often a skirt, and that used to necessitate nylons. Nylons, pantyhose. Some might like them, but I am here to tell you they are a pain. They’re a pain to put on. They snag, they’re tight. They get unsightly tears that run all the way down the leg and then you’re worried about it. You feel embarrassed for the entire rest of the day, ugh.
I started thinking what can I do with nylons?
They’re a gender expectation I feel like. What can I do with them? So I just kind of stretched them and I tied them together. Eventually I did everything but put them on my legs. I put them on my head. And then I thought oh, maybe I need to put something in them like they’re weighing me down. That makes sense to me. They’re weighing me down. So I found a ball. I had a ball that looked like this. That’s a good one. So I found that if I put a ball in a leg, that weighed it down. And then I could swing them so that was kind of fun.
But then I put two in a leg and that started to take on a whole other meaning. Let’s see, you kind of have to put them side by side. And yeah, that starts to look like something else. I’ll let you let your imagination pick up on that. But I thought okay, now I think I’m onto something. (laughs) I started thinking okay, so what if you had this on your head and then that just in one leg? I tried at first one in each leg and that didn’t work as well. So then I tried it here and I let it hang down a little lower. You’ll let you use your imagination.
But like you saw in the video, I just started thinking about how can I swing? And then would this make me more powerful? Apparently so. Would it give me equal pay or a promotion? All right, so I thought what can I do with the movement and how it relates to my body?
And I thought about the idea of some pantyhose are called control top pantyhose, so I like that kind of connection also. So here’s where I got to then thinking about I could swing the balls 360 degrees around the world. Take over the world, okay. So that’s how I got there. You just never know.

You’ve heard more about art-based research methods directly from artist Melanie Manos as she took you step-by-step into her process discovering rather unorthodox uses for nylon hosiery that led to the performance Swing ‘em.

To see more of her work, visit Melanie Manos’s website, watch Swing ’em Detroit + Memphis, or view her portfolio on the Kresge Arts in Detroit website.

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Visualizing Women's Work: Using Art Media for Social Justice

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