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Melanie Thompson

Melanie Thompson has been working as an artist for 30 years - the body has always been my base line, my material, but where the body finds itself - it’s place and space are equally important in the equation.

‘The body is a fluid signifying system, which in the 21st century is continuously undergoing challenging and liberating transformations’.

The Artist’s Body; Tracy Warr

I started as a dancer, moved in physical theatre, became a performance artist and then a public one. I am now trying to develop site sensitive works that encapsulate my varied practice through collaboration. Collaboration with landscape, artists who offer me different skills and people from my local community. I have travelled away from home to work for many years so I am now focusing on the places and history I inhabit through two different projects.

Project 1 : Palace Intrusions

Palace Intrusions is a new year-long public arts project, curated by Melanie Thompson and Helen Ottaway of Artmusic. The project is taking place in Wells, Somerset, with monthly events and arts interventions, called Benchmarks, beginning in October 2007 and culminating in a spectacular site-specific performance in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace in September 2008.

All events will be free and many will be participatory ,involving the general public of all ages, local schools and community groups.

Each month - starting October 2007 an event will occur around or on one of the benches that stand looking at the palace and moat and surrounding countryside. There will be 12 events in all, involving local and visiting artists. The benches themselves will be used as a platform for the presentation of a commission.

The final Benchmark will be an exhibition in the Bishop’s Palace gallery throughout the month of September 2008. Benchmarks will take many forms sculpture, live art, sonic walks, lectures, banquets, musical performance, photography and much more.

Up to date events:

Benchmark 1 : Bronwin Bradshaw - October 2007 - see images

Benchmark 2 : Melanie Thompson and Jane Hazlewood November 2007 - see images

Benchmark 3 : Helen Ottaway and Melanie Thompson December 2007

Benchmarks will continue through 2008 and the work produced by the artists and local participants will form an ongoing and developing exhibition on view at the Wells Museum throughout the year, for all details and up to date info look at :

Project 2

IIn 2006 I was invited to join the team of Bristol Zoo’s new conservation project the

N.W.C.P as initially an arts consultant but to develop into a lead artist role. The project will open in 2011; there is a desire to create a fully integrated design in collaboration with commissioned artists as an integral part of the conservation park and visitors experience. My brief is to expand and activate that vision. All my past public art work has been based on active ongoing conversation and negotiation, this project will continue to develop this interactive discourse between all members of the project and later the visiting artists.

Melanie Thompson

December 2007


  • 2004
    • Started PhD at University of the West of England, Bristol
  • 2002
    • M.A. in ’Fine Art in Context’, University of the West of England, Bristol
  • 1977
    • Rolle College, Exmouth, Devon, Certificate in Education (Drama Major)
  • 1975
    • Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, Devon, Diploma in Drama and Dance.

Teaching and Academia

  • 2007
    • October - guest speaker and co-facilitator for 'Artist and Agencies' day at Dartington College of Arts, Devon
  • 2004
    • Published site specific chapter in ‘Theatre in Social fields’ Graz University Press, Austria
    • Taught 4 day performance course for musicians, Sortland, Norway
    • Invited to teach on 5 day summer school for young people in site-specific based work at Wimbledon Art College, London
    • Guest workshop leader at Exeter Universities Symposium on Site-Specific Arts Practice.
  • 1980 - 2003
    • Started part-time PhD looking at the act of negoation in art making
    • Slumber weekend – 24hour workshop exploring collaborative practice, Devon
    • Site specific weeks workshop for the Jerusalem school of Visual Theatre, Israel
    • Finished M.A in ‘Art in Context’
    • Paper given on the ‘Zwillinge Project‘ at the Art in Context Conference, Berlin, Germany.
    • Invited to teach at ‘Dream works’ summer school, London
    • Taught two theatre school summer projects, Bristol University
    • Artistic Leader of Scheersburg Autumn 12 day performance workshops, in Germany for 3 years, also taught at their summer visual art schools for 3 summers.
    • Ran one years performance project at the Arnolfini Arts Centre, Bristol
    • In 1980 started a 10-year relationship with Nordisk Theatre School, Denmark – teaching training courses for performers, ranging from 1 week to one year in length.
    • Throughout this period teaching ’Release’ body work as basic training for all performers in projects.
    • Since 1985 I have been teaching as a visiting part time lecturer / workshop leader at Dartington College of Arts. My interdisciplinary skills have meant I teach across all the departments, Visual Performance, Theatre /Dance and Music students all work on collaborative, performance, (body based) and site-specific skills with me.

Visual & Performing Arts practice

  • 2007
    • ‘Palace Intrusions' Collaboration with Wells Palace and composer Helen Ottaway
  • 2006
    • Performance of Slippage at Dance Edition, British Dance, Leeds
    • Performance of Slippage - Made in Somerset, showcase, Frome
  • 2005
    • Initiated research and performance collaboration with Helen Ottaway Composer on 3-year project based at Wells Palace, Somerset
  • 2004
    • Performances of solo show ‘Slippage’ as part of Somerset Arts Week, Phoenix Project, Glastonbury
    • 10-day residency as part of French Arts Festival 'L’ete des Arts’ in Cote d’Or en Bourgogne.
    • 4-day residency/collaboration as part of the ‘Wide Open’ exhibition Artspace, Cambridge.
    • Performances of ‘Slippage’ at Sortland New Music Week, Norway
  • 2003
    • Invited to perform at the International Visual Arts Festival, Montreal, Canada.
    • Collaboration Exhibition - 5 Artists Dartington Gallery, Devon
    • ‘The Party’ installation/slide event, Somerset
  • 2002
    • Created ‘Bloodworks’ site specific performance for ‘Crossing Time’ International Arts Festival, Dartington College, Devon
    • Invited to Symposium organised by C.R.A.N.E (International networking) France, created opening performance.
  • 2001
    • Commissioned to create a week long site-specific performance as part of the tour of the city ‘Tourist of the Heart’ Arhus Theatre Festival, Denmark
  • 2000
    • 'Scallop' project - One year village residency – final event, installation and Performance, Chillington, Somerset.
  • 1992 - 98
    • Created ‘The Zwillinge Project’ a series of site-specific works as a collaboration with Kirsten Lavers visual artist.
    • From 1992 to 1996 we created 10 Episodes (installation/ performances) across G.B, ranging from Episode 6 using the whole first floor of a hotel in Hull to Episode 10 a week long event all over Bristol, examining issues of homelessness. The Arts Council and commissions funded the works.
    • Over 1997 and 1998 we did a tour of lectures, entitled ’Conversing with Sites’ visiting a series of universities around the country.
    • In 1998 we launched the final catalogue/documentation of the whole project as a series of limited edition books.
  • 1984 - 90
    • Formed a performance company ‘Intimate Strangers’ with Paul Roylance.
    • Committed to developing multimedia performance work in collaboration with a range of invited practioners.
    • Toured G.B and Europe with five productions, received funding from Arts Council and South West Arts.
  • 1979 - 84
    • Part of Cardiff Laboratory Theatre Company, based at Chapter Arts Centre, hosted visits from Odin Theatre, from Denmark, Jerzy Grotowski and his company from Poland.
    • Toured all over Wales and Europe, performing and teaching and creating site-specific events. Welsh Arts Council Funded.

Public Arts Practice

  • 2006
    • Appointed Artistic Director of Tor Dance Festival ( see web site
    • Arts Consultant for Bristol Zoo’s new project, N.W.C.P to open in 2011
  • 2004 - 06
    • Lead Artist for public art project ‘Beacon Quay’, commissioning artist for major art work in Torquay, Devon. Installed in October 2006
  • 2001 - 03
    • Lead Artist for the ‘Living Coasts’ Project, large public conservation/visitors centre built on the coastline of Torquay, Devon. I negotiated, raised funds, advertised and commissioned a sound artist to create an original site-specific work for the centre. Received funding from R.A.L.P, Paignton Zoo and Dartington college of Arts.
  • 1999 - 00
    • Scallop Project - collaboration with Jane Hazlewood an Artist and Doctor. A year’s residency in a small village in Somerset, creating a response through installation, performance and interaction to the history and architecture of this specific rural community. Received Millennium and local funding.
  • 1992 - 98
    • The Zwillinge Project, Episodes 4-10 all involved the local community in some way, each episode could not have occurred without the participation of the viewers and visitors at each event.


Melanie Thompson