Between 1972 and 1979, the Ecart group—an artist collective that operated an exhibition space, a publishing house, and a bookstore—occupied a space in Geneva’s Les Pâquis district. In early 1979, the group invited Zurich-based artist Manon (b. 1946) to curate the final exhibition at the venue. She chose to display an iconic series of photographs entitled La Dame au crâne rasé (1977–1978), depicting the artist herself as a “femme fatale” with a shaved head, as a way of questioning established ideas of femininity and sensuality. 

The show opened on February 6, 1979 with a performance entitled Traps. The current exhibition looks back on this event through a series of archive documents. Traps, an intricately choreographed, immersive experience, was a variation on a performance Manon had given a few days earlier at the De Appel gallery in Amsterdam. She employed her body and her image as both the vectors and media for her work, using her carefully staged appearance to challenge notions of intimacy and voyeurism, modesty and pathos. 

The performance opened with two women guarding a door, above which appeared the words “Donnez-moi une minute de votre temps pour échanger un regard” (“Give me a minute of your time to make eye contact”). The participants, with numbered tickets, were beckoned to enter through the door one by one. They were led through a “maze,” which opened out into a dark corridor. On either side stood two men, their faces covered with nylon stockings, holding flashlights in their hands. After passing through this disconcerting guard of honor, the participants found themselves in the final room: a space veiled in semi-darkness containing two chairs. Manon was seated in one of the chairs. As a metronome marked each passing second, two spotlights came on. In turn, each participant was asked to sit in the empty chair and to hold the artist’s gaze for a full minute. They were then escorted to the exit by two people wearing clothes bearing the words “le regret” and “le désir.

The archive photographs document the event as it unfolded. With Traps, she retraced the steps of our “sentimental journey”: doubt, the weight of other people’s perceptions, and dreams fulfilled or shattered. By offering up her gaze as a mirror, Manon seemed to suggest that our emotional complexity is the sum of each of these moments in time.

  • Exhibition curated by Elisabeth Jobin
FONDATION MAMCOÉtat de GenèveVille de GenèveJTIFondation LeenaardsFondation genevoise de bienfaisance Valeria Rossi di Montelera