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To Declare a New World

Few manifestos remain in the public consciousness for long. Fewer still have defined entire eras of art, and all of those were eventually challenged by later treatises. This cycle is one way to understand the history of art.

Radical Care

A manifesto is a desperate thing. That’s what Mierle Laderman Ukeles said of her “Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!,” which she wrote in a single sitting, under the duress of motherhood.

9 Primers

Sixty years have passed since Uche Okeke wrote “Natural Synthesis.” Debates surrounding the manifesto’s influence—who is right to be named a member of the group, which younger artists are favored descendants, etc.—eclipse, to my mind, a greater dilemma. That is, are the opportunities for synthesis as available to artists today as they were to their forebears? What can be said of the resources available right now for those who wish to model their practice after the idea of a “natural synthesis”?

Something in the Air

In Waiting for Tear Gas, I recognize the faces and scenes from last summer’s protests against the systematic murder of Black people by the police, and feel the catharsis of standing alongside the community in solidarity. I recall the tear gas, the chants, the police car set aflame—all of these instances while we waited to see what change would come. With empathy and grief, we’re still waiting.

The Revolution Is the Trial

So here we are, misled by false notions: petty legal wrangling, diversionary demands, political posturing. And all within our usual terrain, set out by the returning old guard. “Such is the natural dominion of habit that we regard the most arbitrary conventions, sometimes indeed the most defective institutions, as absolute measures of truth or falsehood, justice or injustice,” Robespierre warned. Thus begins Biden’s hollow restoration.

A Guide to Eating and Walking

Manifestos, as I understand them, share the characteristics of maps that I propose here. They reflect the political contexts in which they are produced. And their raison d’être is to declare a movement’s intentions, aims, and proposals. They display their geography explicitly. At the same time, a manifesto can be devised as a tool to present escape routes from the system in which it was produced. Such is the case of “Manifesto Antropófago” by Oswald de Andrade, published in Portuguese in the 1928 inaugural issue of Revista de Antropofagia.

Seeds, Sharing, Manifestos

The distillation of ideas necessary for an impactful manifesto feels far too reductive in a world whose complexities, contradictions, and crises have exploded into our lives as though someone dropped a match into a bag of fireworks.

What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence

Art manifestos often propose themselves as solutions to aesthetic problems—aping philosophical or religious tracts, mathematical proofs. But the resulting language is typically merely fatuous and should be set as far aside from art as possible, relevant only for the purpose of scholarship.

New England Bauhaus

When Walter Gropius published the Bauhaus manifesto in 1919, his ambition was to level the enervated hierarchies of Western art.


The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2021

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