ARTICLE: I Do Declare-The Power of the Art Manifesto

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Someone needed to say it: Manifestos have changed the world

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ARTICLE: 10 Game Changing Art Manifestos

The article above lists, in roughly chronological order, samples from documents that made an effort to define some particular set of ideas that artists could agree on. Good luck with that.

The tone varies in each, from playful to serious, from inspirational to ironic; but each can be seen as form of taking a stand. They take the risk of stating: this is what matters, and how it is done.

Such expressions of conviction could feel out of place these days, if we listened to the dominant voices in our culture. We live in an era where our institutions encourage us to be muddled and malleable, all the better for the controlling elitists to manipulate us.

The art world is full of this mushy thinking. A great example is how so many SJW artist types preen over the perception they are somehow cutting edge and challenging. They are oblivious that they are espousing the same causes and attitudes being championed by the universities, all the major newspapers, the big three networks and the majority of cable stations, Hollywood studios, ensconced and entitled government bureaucrats, go-along-to-get-along corporations, the official leadership of every major political party pretty much, and the authoritarian brow beaters of social media.

Such rebels, to be in unquestioning conformity to the steady diet of propaganda that barrages us from every angle.

Like William F. Buckley described, “In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”

By all means, let the poseurs keep believing they are speaking truth to power. Their indoctrination was highly successful. The code has been cracked to make these puppets the manifestation of the slogan Ignorance is Strength.

I find the idea of the grassroots manifesto a powerful antidote to the poison of centralized control. Instead of following the top-down dictates of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected, let artists lead by stating their own idiosyncratic observations as a catalyst for real change.

A manifesto is a great tool.   It’s a statement of observations, principles, and proposed actions that the audience can test for validity, and choose to accept or reject based on their own ideas and experiences. I found the Remodernism Manifesto a very useful summation of very real problems that exist in the art world, and some sensible and positive solutions.

When I started sharing it in the art community, some were appalled, and felt the need to lash out. The forces of reaction recoiled in horror from a clear articulation of opinions and values that contradicted their world view. “Shut up,” they explained.

Why the attempt to stifle free expression, and amongst artists of all people? Oh, that’s right; that’s the elitist strategy for dealing with dissent. Crush it, and preserve the monopoly.

We’ve all  become too complacent about the totalitarians in our midst. This needs to change. It starts in the art.

The response of the establishment is very predictable-the frantic attempts to shore up the status quo by means of straw man misrepresentations, futile projections, creepy attempts at personalized pyschodrama. All are efforts to reframe the narrative back into the familiar terrain of the art world bubble. There are elements out there that are very comfortable with the current limited appeal of the contemporary art world. It gives them little kingdoms to rule.

Lots of hearts will be broken trying to defend that dying paradigm though. Art is too important to humanity to leave it in its current state of technocrat mismanagement, and their carefully contrived echo chamber is crumbling.

There’s nothing pedantic about insightful critique and a call for action being stated in firm, direct language. We have been taught to call some objects art that aren’t, by people who are operating out of insidious and base self aggrandizement. A growing wave of people recognize that the current model for the arts is a corrupt wreck, and is ripe for renewal. As we share our discoveries, the wave continues to build.

So let there be manifestos and more. Make statements of intent, editorials, rallying calls, declarations, rants and poems and broadsides. Reformation begins when the scattered elements that perceive the coming way start to recognize their kindred spirits, and begin working towards common goals. Let our manifestos bring us together, and show that out of many, we have become one.

Hear: Charles Thomson reads the Stuckist Manifesto

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Feel free to check out other posts here on the state of the arts.

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7 thoughts on “ARTICLE: I Do Declare-The Power of the Art Manifesto

  1. Such rebels, to be in unquestioning conformity to the steady diet of propaganda that barrages us from every angle.

    It’s almost amusing how the SJWs portray themselves as lonely champions of All Things Good when in fact, they’re only parroting the pronouncements of academia, Hollywood, and the government. They remind me of the totalitarian Red Guards of Mao’s Cultural Revolution shaming and stomping out “impure” elements from society.

  2. It’s been a couple decades since I studied art history towards my BFA degree, and there are many details I’ve forgotten. While what I studied certainly shaped the artist I’ve become, I really appreciate your intelligent review of the major trends in contemporary art. It is also incredibly enlightening to me to learn there are others out there who have reached similar conclusions to my own. This statement in particular deeply encourages me: “Reformation begins when the scattered elements that perceive the coming way start to recognize their kindred spirits, and begin working towards common goals.”

  3. Thank you. I’m so busy making things happen on the ground here in Phoenix, AZ (involved in the preparation of 3 group shows and trying to participate in others) that my time is limited-but what really needs to happen needs to happen on a national level. We need to express God as the center of all things and reflect this in our art. I want to expand the reach of this mission, and I appreciate your encouragement. and I will keep you advised on any opportunities I can make happen.

  4. I enjoyed that article. I’ve found few independent artists who articulate their thoughts about art much.

    A manifesto is an odd thing to me. I don’t expect, and wouldn’t really want anyone else to have the same convictions about art, and practice as I do. Manifestos have a tendency to assert that one kind of art making is the most important or relevant, and a hope to amass a group of followers. I’m rather fond of a plethora of divergent styles, much more so in music than in “visual art”, mostly because music seems to allow for a lot more successful creations and tolerates fewer abysmal ones.

    Two great artists, Van Gogh and Gauguin famously couldn’t get along, and fought over their difference emphasis and values in art, though they are both labeled as “Post Impressionists” (and I don’t imagine either would have got along very well in close quarters with, say, Degas or Seurat). If I had to pick one, I’d take Van Gogh, hands down, but I’m really glad I don’t have to pick one, as I love some of Gauguin’s canvasses. While some of the Impressionists could loosely congregate under the banner of “Impressionism”, the Post Impressionists are way too divergent. Each is a force unto himself with a unique vision and method of expression.

    However, if someone wants to write a manifesto, I won’t begrudge him or her much, even if their manifesto or statements declare my own art irrelevant or inferior. I may even applaud paintings made under their banner. If people are closed-minded about my work, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy and benefit from theirs! And if people don’t read my art criticism, it doesn’t mean I can’t profit from reading theirs, and quite sinking my teeth into it.

    That said, I’m sure I could cobble together a manifesto rather easily from things I’ve already written, if my life depended on it, or someone were to pay me to do so. But I would feel odd about anyone else subscribing to my own vision, rather than honing his or her own. Though I’m sure people have their own views and then find common ground and can come together within broad outlines, which we see the Stuckists and Remodernists doing.

    I support it. I just don’t belong in either of those camps.

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