Photographer, screenwriter, and filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt’s staging of award winning actress Cate Blanchett in “Manifesto” is currently on view in New York at the Park Avenue Armory. The enthralling series of 13 short films runs through January 8, 2017.
These performances on large screens displayed in the single lodge all revere the manifesto as a literary and rhetorical device used to invoke overtly any radical, political, philosophical, and aesthetical will onto society.
More than 50 significant manifestos from arguably some of the most brilliant artists and theorists of our time are featured in absurd or prosaic everyday scenes of contemporary life: a worker in a garbage incineration plant, a choreographer rehearsing with his dancers, a TV news anchor reporting the news, a punk at an after party. The discordance between the unexceptional action occurring and the depth of the texts being uttered by Blanchett, on and off camera, is highly disturbing. The seemingly unimportant routine is all of a sudden placed at the center of the philosophically profound. Any average character becomes a purveyor of ideology.
For instance, a teacher tells her class, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination,” referencing Jim Jarmuch’s rule 5 of Golden Rules of Filmmaking (2004). A conservative catholic mother gives thanks for the family meal praying, “I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap and still comes out on top. I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary,” reciting Claes Oldenburg I am for an Art in his 1961 Ode to possibilities. Elaine Stuyvesant and Sol Lewitt ‘s thoughts on conceptual art are invoked when a TV-set anchor asks a reporter, “How can we go forward when action is to watch action? When knowledge becomes information, when discourse is opinion, when you don’t have to know anything and you think you know everything?” A funeral speaker addresses its weeping audience Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto (1918), “One dies as a hero, or as an idiot, which is the same thing.”
The 13 vignettes weave together dramatic soliloquies that address various artistic movements like Dadaism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Futurism, Fluxus; political theories like Marxist, Situationist; and even film philosophies like Dogma 95, architecture, and more. These innumerable references are all made puzzingly tangible through Blanchett’s hypnotizing monologue performances.
These all vividly and constantly ask the viewer—are history’s manifestos still relevant to our contemporary world? And what is to be presently considered ethical, beautiful, and necessary? The answers may be liberating or burdening, however the question, presently addressed to the American audience until early January, is more than ever resonating.