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  • Writer's pictureDavid Beatty

Artistic Manifestos

Updated: Feb 27

When you hear the word ‘manifesto’ you might expect it to be followed by a story about communism, a serial killer or somebody who is really, really, into permaculture.

However when it comes to the arts, manifestos are very cool. They start revolutions and have the power to change the world. You can read the wikipedia definition but to surmise, "An Artistic Manifesto is a statement to articulate your intentions, motives, views, goals, inspirations and overall artistic vision. A proper manifesto has all the ingredients that create a movement’s urgency and vigor, with a revolutionary effect. A manifesto gives a means of expressing, publicizing and recording ideas for the artist or art group."

“Here’s to the crazy ones”

An artistic manifesto can help you define who you are as an artist. It can also help you develop a different creative mindset. You might find a new approach to creating art by looking at it from a new point of view. Writing down your thoughts can help you understand what makes you an artist and what you need to do to fulfill your ambitions.

And although some artists don't like talking about their work, learning how to explain your creative motives can be a useful skill when promoting yourself and working out why you make art in the first place. Even if an artist only writes an art manifesto for themselves, it helps understand process and motives for creating work.

Here are five examples of famous Artistic Manifestos...

Dada Manifesto, Tristan Tzara, 1918 - The Dada movement was born out of a reaction against nationalism and rationalism, which these artists believed to have caused the First World War.

A work of art is never beautiful by decree, objectively and for all. Hence criticism is useless, it exists only subjectively, for each man separately, without the slightest character of universality… Dada was born of a need for independence, of a distrust toward unity. Those who are with us preserve their freedom. We recognize no theory.

Five Points Towards a New Architecture, Le Corbusier, 1926 - Le Corbusier is now credited as a pioneer of modern architecture. His prefabricated housing, with its emphasis on open communal space and exterior facades free from structural constraint, were hugely influential in the re-building of French cities after the First World War. "A house is a machine for living in.” This extract demonstrates his approach to uncomplicated modern buildings.

The following points in no way relate to aesthetic fantasies or a striving for fashionable effects, but concern architectural facts that imply an entirely new kind of building, from the dwelling house to palatial edifices… The age of the architects is coming.

The Laws of Sculptors, Gilbert & George, 1967 - Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore met at art school in 1967 and formed a partnership that has lasted for over 40 years. In work that tackles a myriad of social issues - including sex, religion, race, addiction and death - the artists often appear themselves as “living sculptures”, typically dressed in smart grey suits. Their overriding mantra is “Art for all”, a reaction against the intellectual and economical elitism of contemporary art. This wry extract is taken from the pair’s first manifesto of 1969, The Laws of Sculptors.

1. Always be smartly dressed, well groomed, relaxed, friendly, polite and in complete control.

2. Make the world believe in you and to pay heavily for this privilege.

3. Never worry, assess, discuss or criticize but remain quiet respectful and calm.

4. The Lord chisels still, so don’t leave your bench for long.

The Guerilla Girls, 1985-90 - n 1984, a group of anonymous women, wearing gorilla masks, picketed the Museum of Modern Art in New York. MoMA was opening a show which purported to be a definitive survey of contemporary art, and yet out of the 169 artists featured in the show, only 13 were female. Since their inception, the group have worked to expose the under-representation of women in the art world by targeting galleries, art dealers and critics. Their manifesto comes in the form of their famous slogan artworks.

Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? Less thatn 5% of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85% of th nudes are female.

Red Alan's Manifesto, Grayson Perry RA, 2014 - Grayson Perry RA once famously asserted, “I can be outrageous because the vice squad is never going to raid a pottery exhibition.” Through traditional craft – tapestry and ceramics – Perry explores a disparity between form and subject and chronicles contemporary life.

Nothing in art is new or old fashioned, only good or bad.

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