IS/ISNOT: glocal utterance-isms
Works by | Michael Betancourt, Lee Scrivner, Kerry Mitchell, The Stuckists, Susie Ramsay & Rafael Lozano Hemmer, Jesse Drew, Pall Thayer, VNS Matrix, Tamás Waliczky, Old Boys Network | Curated by | CONT3XT.NET | Opening | 10 April 2008
The Art manifesto has been a recurrent feature associated with the avant-garde in Modernism. Art manifestos are mostly extreme in their rhetoric and intended for shock value to achieve a revolutionary effect. They often address wider issues, such as the political system. Typical themes are the need for revolution, freedom (of expression) and the implied or overtly stated superiority of the writers over the status quo. The manifesto gives a means of expressing, publicising and recording ideas for the artist or art group— even if only one or two people write the words, it is mostly still attributed to the group name.
Manifestos were introduced with the Futurists in Italy in 1909, and readily taken up by the Vorticists, Dadaists and the Surrealists after them: the period up to World War II created what are still the best known manifestos. Although they never stopped being issued, other media such as the growth of broadcasting tended to sideline such declarations. Due to the internet there has been a resurgence of the form, and many new manifestos are now appearing to a potential worldwide audience. The Stuckists have made particular use of this to start a worldwide movement of affiliated groups.
Manifestos typically consist of a number of statements, which are numbered or in bullet points and which do not necessarily follow logically from one to the next. Tristan Tzara’s explanation of the manifesto (Feeble Love & Bitter Love, II) captures the spirit of many:
“A manifesto is a communication made to the whole world, whose only pretension is to the discovery of an instant cure for political, astronomical, artistic, parliamentary, agronomical and literary syphilis. It may be pleasant, and good-natured, it’s always right, it’s strong, vigorous and logical. Apropos of logic, I consider myself very likeable.”