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March 12, 2018 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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The Thirteen Beautiful Films of Manifesto

Cate Blanchett reads out thirteen different text assemblages, combining a mass of artistic manifestos, rearranged by Julian Rosefeldt for his project Manifesto. These text assemblages are every callous or triumphant sentiment that art has spat out in our last century. This project is split over thirteen different screens, hovering panels in the Auckland Art Gallery, all lasting for around ten minutes. The performances are layered over each other, so Blanchett is omnipresent. There is a moment in each loop where they all synchronise, and multiple versions of her jolt from their manifesto, and then continue in some sort of transcendental chant. It is hyperreal, but immaculate, and Blanchett, under Rosefeldt’s direction, melds into thirteen equally flawless characters to personify the work she performs.

Each persona she takes on is an absolute archetype. These manifestos were created when the ideas that they espouse were of the fringes, not the mainstream. Thus, to collapse them into formulaic characters is the antithesis of their original conception. When Blanchett becomes the perfect punk— slurring, snarling, thick eyeliner— she is a paradox. The outsider cannot be made into a stereotype. They have a dissonant experience of life, where their identity does not slot easily amongst a normative social cast, or between codified social signs. Other roles that Blanchett takes on are also from the margins, like the garbage plant worker, or of characters who take on behaviours of the outskirts: the teacher, the mother. To categorise those who are not often represented in this reductive way also dismantles the relationship of the original texts with their authors, readers, or audiences. In attempting to fabricate this intrinsic relationship, it is instead hollowed out. The performances that Blanchett gives become a chimera, entirely a real thing, until they are not.

Rosefeldt notes that the ambition of every manifesto to triumph over the future— to proclaim what the future will, or should become— is not a forward-looking exercise at all. The texts that have been compiled in Manifesto were mostly written when their authors were relatively young (Manuel Maples Arce was 21 when he wrote A Strident Prescription, Andre Breton was 28 for the first Surrealist Manifesto), and this is affirmed in the language used. Their radicalness is about enacting in the present a desire for revolution in the future, rather than hosting the revolution. The eccentricity of Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto is a real-time agitation, where time is made to seem like it only exists up until the last word that was said.

This potential is what was significant in these manifestos’ original publications; a charge, possibility. There is an expiration to this potential though. There is an absence of consideration of what a contemporary manifesto looks like, and how principles of architecture, science, art, and social relations have shifted. Amy Howden Chapman performed Architecture and Ideology: The Last of the Glass at the Adam Art Gallery last year. Hers is an essay that is relevant here and now, in New Zealand and with our present architectural concerns around disaster resilience and modern Antipodean design. Architecture and Ideology is an example that could have sat alongside Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, to offer a perspective that is more specific to the time and place that the exhibition is positioned in, and to reinvigorate the concept of the manifesto. The loss of potential energy in Rosefeldt and Blanchett’s collaboration in favour of revisiting the past is not necessarily a criticism. It is an interesting chronicle on display, and these are seminal texts, but it is a transplant exhibition that has dimmed over its geographic and social transmission.

Manifesto is currently showing at the Auckland Art Gallery for a charge, or you can watch the clips for free on Julian Rosefeldt’s website.

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