Hänzel & Gretzel
1966 Nancy (France).
Hänzel & Gretzel was the pseudonym of Daniel Mangeon, video artist, author, maker of music videos, television director and image dresser of all sorts, who died in 2000 of AIDS at the age of 34. Throughout his broad oeuvre the recurring themes are a passion for transgressive pop music and an interest in the absurd. Daniel Mangeon graduated in 1991 from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Nancy and moved to Paris shortly afterwards. Several years later he exchanged the French capital for Brussels. Professionally, Mangeon organised himself around the medium of television: in France and Brussels he worked as a director, writer, editor and so on for television, for several channels among which La Sept, Canal+, RTBF and Arte. At the same time and possibly more importantly, the man was active since his student days as a video artist under the pseudonym Hänzel & Gretzel
Mangeon was a true romantic and was consistently able to translate that directly into his videos. In a flashing stream of images placed beside, above and through each other, Mangeon revealed himself to be a dreamer with a penchant for the fairytale, towards the surreal and the absurd with a solid dose of reserved tongue-in-cheek. The key to Hänzel & Gretzels oeuvre — a substantial collection of videos and installations — lies in the montage and the basic material for his work that Mangeon found in the most diverging areas
He would for example merge snippets of his own animation films and produced images under his editing table with image fragments picked out of the ethers; typography, photographs and so forth into a flood of images. This is why he relates his work to the medium of the music video: Hänzel & Gretzels videos read like handfuls of imagery arbitrarily pasted together, selected from a variety of sources, and they leave a big margin for the viewer who brings various connotations or readings to the work. Moreover, the soundtrack often carries the images, or the two support each other reciprocally in a mutually fertile equilibrium. Mangeon was also a fervent music lover and had close ties with various musicians, (beat)poets and artists from the underground pop scene. His contacts grew from the industrial scene in Nantes into collaborations with an international vanguard of pop artists, among which Ira Cohen, Lee Ranaldo, Scanner and Gerard Malanga. Hänzel & Gretzels music videos for artists and groups such as Jarboe, Current 93 and Coil however reach beyond the limits that the medium itself often dictates: they exude a successful cross-fertilisation of Mangeons dreamy fantasy and the alternatively light-footed, perspective-inducing, cynical and sometimes morbid character of the music. Mangeons affinity with sound artists brought him to the portrait. In those character sketches of for instance Ira Cohen on a bridge in Prague or a reciting Lee Ranaldo in his hotel room, the signature of the maker shines through clearly: Mangeon always looked for a personal style suiting the outlook and personality of his treated subject.
Through his work, alongside a musical interest, Mangeon revealed himself to be politically engaged as well. In those later films he also employed flickering, quick editing of shredded fragments in order to express his concerns about looming subjects such as the homogenisation of the media, the conditioning of the consumer or poverty.
The artist regularly performed live as with his magnum opus Hamletmachine (1998), a partially audio-visual stage piece (with, among others, Scanner, Dead Man Ray, DJ Olive) in which all components of Mangeons vision and techniques of working coincide. The video films and installations of Hänzel & Gretzel were shown at, amongst other places, the Centre Pompidou, the Modern Art Museum in Paris, the Film Anthology Museum in New York and the Cartier Foundation.