What is an Art Manifesto?

An art manifesto is a public declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of an artist or artistic movement.

Manifestos are a standard feature of the various movements in the modernist avant-garde and are still written today. 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.

The first art manifesto of the 20th century was 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.

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.

 

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