Creating and publishing documentation that helps others understand your art style and art brand is more important than it was yesterday because we’re competing differently now. From your artist statement to your press kit, it should be clear and visible what you wish to relay with your talent.
On of the essential stepping-stones in your development and in your documentation is an artist manifesto.
The artist manifesto becomes a living, breathing document that can help establish your authority within your genre. It explains what you believe about your art and why your work is important in regards to your place of significance within your category and amongst your competitors.
To gain a good grasp of what your own manifesto should look like, let’s start with a definition (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/manifesto).
Manifesto is related to manifest, which occurs in English as a noun, verb, and adjective. Of these, the adjective, which means “readily perceived by the senses” or “easily recognized,” is oldest, dating to the 14th century.
Both manifest and manifesto derive ultimately from the Latin noun manus (“hand”) and -festus, a combining form that is related to the Latin adjective infestus, meaning “hostile.” Something that is manifest is easy to perceive or recognize, and a manifesto is a statement in which someone makes his or her intentions or views easy for people to ascertain.
Many historical manifestos seem formal since many are used in politics, but in actuality, a manifesto for artists can bring a welcome clarity for investors, galleries, fans and patrons as well as to the artist himself.
Futurism was founded in Italy in 1909 and celebrated the advancement of technology and urban modernity, and a severance with the traditions of the past. Through multiple manifestos, written by the Italian philosopher and writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the movement championed action over sentiment – drawing on the dynamism of machinery, speed and noise in both painting and cinema. The extract below is taken from the founding manifesto, published on the front page of the French newspaper Le Figaro on February 20, 1909. The first of the major avant-garde manifestos, texts by the Cubists, Dadaists, Vorticists and Surrealists followed.
1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.
2. Courage, boldness, and rebellion will be the essential elements in our poetry.
3. Up to now, literature has extolled a contemplative stillness, rapture and reverie. We intend to glorify aggressive action, a restive wakefulness, life at the double, the slap and the punching fist.
F.T. Marinetti, 1909
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.
Gilbert & George, 1967
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. In Red Alan’s Manifesto, created for the Royal Academy, Perry provides a witty riposte to some of art’s biggest issues, such as: Can anything be art? Who decides whether art is good or bad? The manifesto is written under the authorship of Red Alan, a ceramic sculpture of his childhood teddy bear, Alan Measles.
Nothing in art is new or old fashioned, only good or bad.
To start writing your own manifesto, take some time to think about the following in terms of your art:
I want the world to be….
I am committed to…
Your completed manifesto will guide your efforts and lead you toward your truest goals. Post it in your studio or anywhere you and others will see it. You might add it to your press kit or onto your signature paperwork.
Need more inspiration? These are also noteworthy:
The Cluetrain Manifesto – an examination of the impact of the internet on marketing
The Russel – Einstein Manifesto – highlighting the dangers of nuclear weapons and a calling for world leaders to seek peaceful resolution.
Andre Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto – the stream and flow of thought without the control exercised by reason, aesthetic or morality.
Finally, I have a deep appreciation for Steven Pressfield’s Manifesto, Do the Work.
“Do The Work takes you step-by-step from the project’s inception to its ship date, hitting each predictable ‘resistance point’ along the way and giving techniques and drills for overcoming each obstacle. There’s even a section called ‘Belly of the Beast’ that goes into detail about dealing with the inevitable moment in any artistic or entrepreneurial venture when you hit the wall and just want to cry “HELP”.”– Steven Pressfield
Try writing your own artist manifesto. I’m certain the words of it will change your life.
All the best to you, always.