Manifesto Marathon Day 1:
Saturday 18 October, 12 noon – 10 pm
Manifesto Marathon Day 2:
Sunday 19 October, 10 am – 7 pm
Manifesto Marathon, the third in the Serpentine Gallery’s acclaimed series of Marathon events, took place in the closing weekend of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2008, designed by Frank Gehry. The Manifesto Marathon came at a time when artists had begun to work less in formal groups and defined artistic movements. It showcased a new generation of artists alongside practitioners from the worlds of literature, design, science, philosophy, music and film who were returning to the historical notion of the manifesto. The Manifesto Marathon drew on the Serpentine Gallery’s close proximity to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, which has been used as a platform by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell and William Morris, among many others.
SERPENTINE GALLERY MANIFESTO MARATHON BLOG
The following blog was written during the Marathon by
Tom Cobbe and reflects a personal take on this event.
All photographs © Mark Blower, unless otherwise specified.
Apart from the manifestos delivered, there were also texts made available by some of the speakers (and remote speakers) and a slide show of historic manifestos that Gustav Metzger selected from the Breaking the Rules exhibition at the British Library 2007/8.
‘It’s a public space – close to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. The Marathon brings leading figures from the worlds of art, architecture, music, fashion and film.’
‘It’s the third in the Marathon series, conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist [HUO], Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes, and Director, International Projects. And this is an opportunity to thank him for this extraordinary body of work, unique to the Serpentine.’
JPJ then talked about the previous two Marathons – Interview (in Rem Koolhaas’s Pavilion, 2006) and Experiment (in Olafur Eliasson’s, 2007), and the Pavilion itself: ‘This commission is still the only scheme worldwide of its level.’
She continued that it is not an exhibition, but a space: ‘It’s temporary – public space, a kind of town square, from early in the morning to late at night.’ She then thanked the sponsor Kuoni for its support.
‘It’s a holistic thing – it’s the building and the content of the building.’
Whereas Olafur’s Pavilion was like a laboratory, Frank Gehry’s is an ‘open Pavilion – a street’. The idea was to try to connect with Speakers’ Corner and free speech – hence manifestos.
‘It’s also a declaration of artistic intent’, using ‘new modes of publication and production – texts, documents, radical pamphlets’. He then announced that the pamphlet that advertised the event would lead to a book, and also that this event might well tour. ‘It’s extremely common for exhibitions to tour, but less common for events such as this.’ He then thanked the Vivienne Westwood – the first speaker – and all the other speakers who were appearing at the Marathon.
Active Resistance to Propaganda
This took the form of a static play. Westwood played the part Active Resistance. There were three main co-parts (Pirate Progress, Alice and Pinocchio), and an ensemble of 21 providing the chorus and lesser parts. In tone, it was similar to a modern reimagining of a medieval morality play.
A synopsis of the manifesto is that art has to be true to life (the phrase ‘representational human nature’, said by all the cast) to be truly communicative, that seduction by sensationalism and ego has to be avoided and that imagination must be held in check by ethics. Self-knowledge is the key to an art practice that can break through the enveloping crust of propaganda.
The text of the manifesto is up on her website www.activeresistance.co.uk
Afterwards, she finished with a small speech:
‘I wrote it a couple of years ago. I don’t know if I would have the heart to write it now … If we can find a way to save the rainforest, we might be able to save the rest of the world. In 100 years, there will be only 1/5 of world population. Others will have died in horrible circumstances. Have we really got time to be art lovers? We should be concentrating on ecological matters. Try to do something, find a way.
‘I believe that the manifesto is a great truth. If you do become an art lover, you have an incredible anchor, ballast for understanding the world we live in. If you’re interested in politics, you might try to do something, but you would get disillusioned very quickly. If you have that anchor, it is an incredible support. The manifesto is a practice. Read it again, it might make you change your opinion of things.’
Dogma, Architecture Refuses
‘This is a rewriting of existing one – any time you write a manifesto, there is always a previous one.’
‘The first manifesto was the Communist manifesto by Marx and Engels. There is no other manifesto of Communism. No one could dare to do another one. This manifesto is not looking forward, but freeing us from the future by using the past.’
Aureli then embarked on a rapidly recited long list of what architecture should not be about, including:
‘No expressionism, no futurism, no organicism, no personality, no new architecture invented every Monday morning. No rhetoric, no excitements, no imagination freed from constraints, no difference for the sake of difference.’
‘No diagrams, no icons, no programmes, no statistics, no research, no branding, no networks, no Photoshop, no bloggers, no-non-standard architecture, no avant-garde, no neo-avant-garde, no anti-avant-garde.’
‘No confusing architecture with anything that isn’t architecture, no confusing life with anything that isn’t life.’
Faith in Infrastructure
In a mixture of speaking and twisted singing, Koob-Sassen expounded on structure, both living and constructed, evolutionary and elaborative.
‘With the accumulation of shit, the artificial residues of life create evolutionary feedback… [fading] feedback… [fading] feedback.’
‘The elaborative trajectory from economies to organs is paracultural … in the same way that evolution advances across the lifetimes of many creatures. Life builds and climbs its paracultural ladder up and out… Life seeks the exit of the cave.’
‘It is extremely important for me to … urge you to sharpen up our criticality to an axe-murdering edge. I long for that chop, for I am in no way convinced of what I propose, though very committed to proposing it.’
‘No structure song is complex enough to be sung into world body, except that standard human system of organs. In that garden, four billion cells sing in schizophrenic unity – a single human consciousness.’
‘We put our faith in multiplication of a new kind of structure: the web, the market and the bubbles … In elaborating new global economies, we evoke world organs. How do we sing them into structure? We must be organific economists.’
Niermann and Kyes took turns to read out their manifesto, one in an ongoing series The Choices.
‘Throughout history, human beings have increasingly taken fate into their own hands. They had a hand not only in land and machines, but also themselves. This they could do over and over in a new way or react to a specific constellation with an ever-constant, unconsciously performed behaviour. This is “drill”.’
Drill is used only with reservation in the Western world these days because it ‘finds discomfort in every irreversibility’ – everyone wants to be reborn, not die, ‘the criminal is rehabilitated, waste gets recycled, marriage can be divorced.’
‘Machines already do enough to satisfy all of man’s basic material needs. And yet he is not prepared for constant, full supply.’ Thus Niermann and Kyes argued that he either has to constantly spur himself on, or to keep things in moderation.
‘To produce a sustained effect, one has to drill’, but freely forcing yourself is a paradox …‘With “drill”, it is possible to set all of life in quotation marks, even hunger and thirst.’
[The manifesto was printed on the occasion of the Marathon and handed out to the audience]
An Anti-Manifesto for Democratic Action on Climate Change
PLATFORM talked how they were campaigning to raise awareness of the sovereignty of resources, and the environmental impact of the oil industry, and how these campaigns lie at the nexus of art and politics.
PLATFORM used the example of the Niger Delta – advocating that while it has produced massive profits for multinational companies, it has also resulted in oil spills and social destruction. The minority Ogoni people, led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, started a non-violent protest that was so successful that Shell had to leave that region in 1993. He and eight colleagues were later executed by the Nigerian government on trumped up charges.
‘The oil that we buy and use every day endangers the Ogoni minority and other minorities in oil-producing areas. Oil’s legacy can only be changed by our radical action.’
PLATFORM then talked about their campaign against UK banks, especially RBS, for its investment of the public’s money in the oil industry. They finished with the issue of sponsorship: ‘We have campaigned against oil companies’ sponsorship of the arts. How did tobacco and arms sponsorship become so taboo? It was a change of climate. Now it’s time to get ahead of the game.’ They noted that two of the major sponsors of the Frank Gehry Pavilion, Netjets and Kuoni, were companies that were relied to a greater or lesser extent on the oil industry.
Art beyond Art: The Barbarism of Civilisation must end! – A Manifesto for the 21st Century
‘Is history of humanity not the history of violence; what Walter Benjamin calls the barbarism of civilization? … Is this violence not the violence of the narcissistic ego?’
Araeen argued that the attempt by artists to argue that they were outside the socio-political system was based on a ‘naivety of opposition’, and that the avant-garde had ‘badly failed’.
‘Art today is trapped in the facile idea of confrontation, producing merely media scandals and sensations, and widening further the gap between art and life in which it now operates purely as a commodity.’
He argued that this same artistic narcissistic ego results in the same object-based art, produced for the bourgeoisie and the museum which reifies and commodifies it.
He finished by talking about climate change and argued that artists should get involved by conceptualising the process of desalination as an ongoing artwork to produce more water for irrigation and drinking.
‘My manifesto for the 21st century would therefore be for the artists to abandon their studios and to stop the making of objects only. Instead they should focus their imagination on to what is there in life, to enhance not only their own creative potential but also the collective life of earth’s inhabitants.’
Expanding and Dissolving Architecture
‘This is not a manifesto, but first thoughts about one. Last month, another book came out about Archigram, by someone who does actually understand what we are about. I am calling this manifesto Serpentgram.’
‘Architecture for all. I’m not a populist, I’m quite an elitist. But architecture should be taught in schools.’
Professor Cook lamented the fact that while the discipline of architecture was so wide-ranging (sociologist, dabbler, technologist, rubbish collector), ‘only those with six years of expensive education’ are allowed to call themselves this.
‘Things become more and more compartmentalized. I love the notion of the boffin talking to the tramp.’
He wanted architecture to include the cock-up theory of politics, and for there to be applied art – ‘It’s a debased term, but I like the term “applied wit”.’
The great tragedy of recent years is early death of Cedric Price. I can imagine him at one of these Marathons.
HUO: ‘I think that the whole Marathon should be dedicated to Cedric Price. It is very much his idea of the pavilion being a flexible cultural machine.’
HUO: Taryn Simon’s Thatcher Effect is a manifesto on perception.’
He then read the following text, and asked the attendees to view the installation in the Pavilion.
‘A face is analyzed and perceived by its individual features, not as a whole. Psychological processes in facial recognition make it difficult to identify local inversions of features when a face is viewed upside down. The head is the context for framing the features which are used for the process of identification. Changes, in a familiar context (when the head is right side up), are easily detected by the brain. Identical changes in an unfamiliar context (when the head is upside down) are difficult for the brain to process.’
[The work is of two juxtaposed photographic self-portraits. In one, the mouth and the eyes have been vertically flipped. Both of these photographs have been pinned to a board, and they slowly revolve.]
Da Do Ron Ron
Photograph © Alison Clarke
‘I think that manifestos are disturbing, I’m not a manifesto man. But I have a proposal. I can almost guarantee that almost nobody here has not had further education. I propose that you should do more things before further education.’
[He then continued with handing out various props.]
‘Appreciate difference. Try smelling blue [handing out two ropes, one of which is that colour].’
‘You should try working in a corrugated cardboard factory (and think about how miraculous it is) and a hardboard factory (not an MDF one), and think about the history of printing.’
[Other objects include tape, nails, wire, elastic band, razor blade, Sellotape and an anti-shoplifting device for clothes.]
[On a ceramic loo:]
That’s an original Frank Gehry. That’s volume-making. They are astonishing. You can buy one for less than the cost of dinner. But without its infrastructure, it has no meaning.’
‘I hope that you will criticize this arbitrary list. I hope that you will make your own list, of things that you haven’t researched but experienced, and I promise you that the world will be a much better place.’
The artists announced that they were going to deliver four short manifestos.
The Laws of Sculptors, 1969
Gilbert & George explained how this manifesto was right at the start of their artistic practice. It included laws such as ‘Always be smartly dressed, well-groomed, relaxed, friendly, polite and in complete control.’
Ten Commandments, 1995
They pointed out that they were written for themselves, not as orders for everybody else. Commandments included:
‘Thou shalt fight conformism’, ‘Thou shalt make use of sex’ and ‘Thou shalt not know exactly what thou doest, but thou shalt do it anyway.’
They explained that the third manifesto was the lyrics of ‘Black Sheep of the Family’, as sung by Fred Davis at the Hackney Empire in 1909, almost a century ago. Lyrics included:
‘I’ll go out to the colonies,
And there I’ll rise or fall…
And when I come back,
The sheep that was black
Will perhaps be the whitest sheep of all.’
They then went into their fourth and final manifesto:
‘Ban religion. Ban religion. Ban religion.’
I don’t know what to do
‘Lenin, Orwell and Marx thought, “So how can I change the world?” Everywhere is ego. To change art, you have to change man. We have to destroy man. So I thought of suiciding here, but then I thought of pretty girls, and decided not to.’
‘I wrote something but I’m not going to tell you.’
‘Fluxus is ego … Every time an artist tries to do anti-art, it becomes art.’
Vautier then said that for the 20 minutes that were allotted to him, he would perform 20 short art pieces, some of which were restagings of other artists’ work.
The Manifesto of Richter
He took the Serpentine catalogue for the current exhibition and tore it up. He then said it didn’t have to be Richter, it could have been any artist: ‘Art is culture; it is manipulated. I vote for sex, but sex is also culture.’
‘The best manifesto is a blank sheet.’
Piece for Frieze
‘They should just put this on their head [brown paper bag].’
[Some audience members do.]
‘The next piece is Art for the Serpentine. I’ve done it already.’
He finished by dancing tango with audience member, playing a gadget that he had bought at the airport into a microphone – there was the sound of a woman climaxing – and announcing that ‘My last piece is Just Smile.’
Peace in the World or the World in Pieces?
This was a performance piece where Lebel spoke for about a minute in an imaginary language, expressing anger, surprise, disbelief and disdain in both his voice and gesture.
‘This was originally written for a book about art and democracy in 2003, but was abandoned due to recent events.’ He then read one of the declarations by the INS.
Declaration on Art and Democracy
‘Good democracy despises democracy to the same measure as bad democracy covets art.’
‘Bad democracy’s administrators covet art inasmuch as they demand of it that it package and promote their core propaganda motifs: inclusiveness, accessibility, good citizenship, public dialogue, “creative entrepreneurship” etc. etc. Art is about none of these things. Its origins lie in transgression, death and sacrifice.’
‘It is noted with approval that Spartans forced captured Athenians to learn Euripides’ work by heart. If they made mistakes reciting it, they were executed.’
‘It is noted with interest that most good writers were extremely rich (Tolstoy, Proust) or in prison (Genet, Solzhenitsyn). Sade was both.’
‘Censorship … should be welcomed by good artists as enabling … Good artists should be quiet, invisible or dead.’
‘Do we contradict ourselves? Well then we contradict ourselves. We are large. We contain multitudes.’
The artist’s manifesto was a wide-ranging, elliptical text that included many popular cultural references – Tom & Jerry vs. Itchy and Scratchy, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, The Shining and Buzz Lightyear.
‘Bruce Nauman was born the day before Pearl Harbour was attacked.
Reports that say that something hasn’t happened always interest me, because as we know, there are known knowns … known unknowns … but there are also unknown unknowns … The day after Bruce Nauman was born, Pearl Harbour was attacked.’
‘My word is my bond, I give you my word. In the beginning was the pun.’
Unlike words, time and space cannot be faked: ‘Weight, gravity, stillness, movement. The laws of motion … Newton, who gave us gravity but believed in alchemy.’
‘Nauman, like Warhol before him, brings bad news for American dreamers. Filling a space and taking up time. Starting where things generally end, in definition, is surely putting Descartes before the horse.’
‘The loop is there in all his [Nauman’s] work. It is as relentless as a jukebox full of country music … or as abrupt as a punchline.’
‘We fear the end, but at least it is the end … But imagine a future unfolding in endless repetition, everything exactly as predicted … A poke in the eye with your own trigger finger.’
Before reading her manifesto, Steveni explained that at the time that Artist Placement Group (APG) was seeking to create a way for artists to be involved with big organizations, this was viewed by the art world as being suspect. Hence APG drew up a manifesto that detailed the rules of engagement.
Context is half the work
The proper contribution of art to society is art
The artist’s brief remains open
That society is starved if creative people are kept out of institutions. This is not to say that people within institutions aren’t creative
The artist and organization should question with vigour their motives for engagement.
‘Tony Benn’s questions apply here: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interest do you use it? To whom are you accountable? How do we get rid of you?”’
Then Steveni started talking about the long-time support of Tony Benn MP: ‘He stands for a politician who can say what has to be said.’ She then showed a film of Tony Benn with herself on the donation of her archive to Tate Modern. In it, he says, ‘Don’t think that you’re just an artist, no more than I’m just a politician. This interplay brings out everything. But society prefers things to remain compartmentalised.’
THEN AND NOW
‘We are thinking of a challenge, a challenge we will meet and deal with.’
Ono said how ‘we are standing at the threshold of a new age’ and that she wanted to especially reach out to the people aged over 50, as their wisdom was especially needed now: ‘All of you are so special to us.’
‘If you want to know your thought processes of the past, look at your body. If you want to know the body of your future, examine your thought processes now.’
[Lights darken, picture of John and Yoko projected, soundtrack of birdsong, including blackbirds and rooks; the image whites out.]
She then launched into a performance piece Onochord. The participants in the Marathon had previously been handed out little torches. Ono had a bigger one. She showed a film where it was explained that this was a kind of shorthand for love. During the film, she was blipping in time to the film. People started blipping her back.
‘1) I [blip]
2) Love [blip blip]
3) You [blip blip blip]
Pretty soon, it becomes:
I love you
Love is forever
You are beautiful.’
Then a house remix of ‘Give Peace a Chance’ was put on the PA system, and Ono started dancing, inviting everyone onto the floor. The Pavilion turned into a packed club for about 10 minutes. A cheer went up when Jonas Mekas started dancing with Yoko Ono.
The Manifesto of Inferiority Complex, or A Negative Manifesto of Übercontemporary Art
Degot said that the inferiority referred to in the title of the manifesto was her own in realising that she had no ready manifesto on tap – something unusual these days where everybody rushes to tell you how they define themselves, along with their plans and desires.
She said that part of the problem with writing a manifesto is that even though she is a curator, she has not completely let go of the role of critic, and that this manifesto could also be called a Manifesto of a Critic. And the open-endedness of criticism is not conducive to a manifesto: ‘A good manifesto blocks conversation.’
Degot then discussed the move to übercontemporary art – one which has ‘finally cut through the umbilical chord that connects it to history … Artists are leaving the context of history and entering the context of media, newspapers, and magazines.’
She argued that most art critics don’t actually criticize – they are complicit in the art game. Unlike film critics, art critics won’t really say if an artist’s painting is worse that his previous one. This is because, unlike cinema or theatre, audience figures don’t have any effect on sales – art can be held as being separate, inviolable. But now übercontemporary artists want to end this division; they long to be pilloried, as long as it’s being pilloried as a celebrity on the front pages of the newspaper.
‘This übercontemporary art has become torture through consumption and not through the inaccessibility of consumption; torture through never-ending pleasure, unrelenting digestion, total access, and continuous erections.’
‘Many signs suggest that the historical period defined by postmodernism is coming to an end.’
‘The times seem propitious for the recomposition of modernity in the present … understood in its economic, political and cultural aspects: an altermodernity.’
Altermodernity is characterized by translation, unlike the Modernism of the 20th-century which spoke the abstract language of the colonial West, and Postmodernism, which encloses artistic phenomena in origins and identities.’
‘We are entering the era of universal subtitling, of generalised dubbing.’
‘The artist becomes “homo viator”, the prototype of the contemporary traveller whose passage through signs and formats refers to a contemporary experience of mobility, travel and trespassing.’
He finished by saying that one could precisely date the moment when the old model of capitalism had failed.
Fragments from a Communist Latento
Two members of the collective, seated in chairs at the front of the podium, had what could be described as a cross between a discussion and a joint statement. They said that were going to deliver an ‘inherited manifesto that’s useful for times like this’.
‘Who can own or ration breath, desires?’
‘But is the end of history, history?’
‘Take care, as you make the transition from bondage to freedom, that you do not use ammunition that has crossed its expiry date.’
The Ill-Tempered Manifesto or A New Aging Manifesto or The New Old Manifesto
An assistant wheeled on a large flight case trunk, on which was an old-fashioned cassette player like an answering machine. She placed a microphone next to the tape recorder’s speaker and pressed “Play”. The recorded text often had heavy glitches where something had been rerecorded on top of a previous statement. There were often bizarre cuts.
‘I have a recurring nightmare that there is a snake in my toilet… In the dream, the snake is after my scarabs.’
[After explaining that scarabs are dung beetles]
‘Artists, like myself, are stool-cuppers by nature – there is a rather addictive tendency to poke, to prod, to try and tease out some finer nuance.’
‘Now in the days of the Tamworth Manifesto or the Humanist Manifesto, The Fascist Manifesto, or indeed The Cannibal Manifesto, it was rightly considered to be a political act to try and say something.’
‘The working class has changed rooms. It has changed names. Hence it appears to have vanished. The lumpen lower middle class is in fact the British working class. And no amount of Ikea furniture will obscure this reality!’
‘Orwell identified writing on art and political speech writing as synonymous in their commitment to vague, debased, disingenuous and manipulative wordage! The word “terror” is of course the biggest example of a hijacked word – the word “terror” has itself been taken hostage.’
The Sound Moneyfesto
This took the form of an allegorical playlet, accompanied by a violinist, cellist, recorder player, guitarist/percussionist; props included a coat-stand from which an apron hung, an ironing board, an iron and a wicker laundry basket. There are two main characters in Victorian dress, Fannie and Freddie, both working in separate areas of the stage, he on his manifesto, she ironing shirts. Both are maintaining the pretence of working to each other, even though they feel hypocritical. Projected on a screen behind the actors are slides showing tumbling share prices, among them are the ones for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the companies that turned mortgages into securities in the US, and which have recently been nationalised).
‘Manifestos should have entertainment value, be revolutionary yet fitting.’
‘I am ruined. This is no way to launch a manifesto.’
‘I pray for deliverance with every morsel of my being.’
[Knock on door]
When they both find out that the other is bankrupt, they pray for more deliverance. A man suddenly appears who tells them that they always had the solution. There are wrapped-up presents of billions of dollars for them at the bottom of his chest and her laundry basket. They attach these presents to the coat-stand; the mystery man holds it up and they solemnly dance around it as a maypole, to the accompaniment of a song.
Seven Suggestions for a New Athens Charta
‘We mean to describe a new city state – a city that considers as a value the liberalisation of the urban condition, a city where the relations go through the internet, not just streets and squares … It’s not the city of the future, but the future of the present; not an ideal city, but one in search of temporary balances.’
‘To make comfortable interior spaces, it’s important that there are objects and facilities corresponding to technological and functional opposing logics, avoiding mono-logic settings and creating a highly complex environment.’
‘Reversibility: avoid rigid and definitive solutions. Use technologies and materials that can foster new ways of use.’
‘Functional non-definition: avoid the identification between form and function, specialised typologies, rigid facilities.’
‘Cohabitation with bio-diversities: Realise (as in the Indian metropolis) the conditions for a cohabitation between man and the animal kingdom; the technologies and the sacred; alive and dead people. Metropolis less anthropocentric and more open to bio-diversities.’ Branzi then ad-libbed, ‘200,000 sacred cows in London, 20,000 monkeys in Paris, 10,000 elephants in Berlin.’
Blur the difference between the indoors and the outdoors, ‘creating a porous system, rich in amniotic exchanges.’
‘It’s October, so the summer is getting out of focus.’
‘Ah, the computer age. Why did I decide to go backward to slides. Perhaps, I’m old-fashioned. I will never do that again.’
‘I love the hot summer in New York. I love it when everyone leaves the city, and you’re left by yourself.’
[It takes the form of a rapidly moving slide show, with a soundtrack of birdsong and rumbling noises.]
‘I will spring a couple of recent films. I don’t know what conclusions I draw from them.’
‘Around 1961, I coined some new words like disart and cinact, oddact … When I came to work with cinema recently, I coined the term cinact.’
‘There are two ways I can show you what type of cinema I like – examples or long pains-taking analysis. Due to time, I’m gonna show you some examples.’
Shrine of the Insect and My Paisley Eyes.
‘Abstract cinema was a complete failure in the 20th century. The system of distribution was preposterous. This is not acceptable for an artform. Film-makers didn’t know what they wanted to do. Instead you got visual noise.’
He said that he wanted to define abstract cinema: ‘Abstract colours moving on a flat plane – defined by a rectangle … Just to move colours on a plane, you can cause the eye to see what is not there. You can cause the viewer to think that their vantage point is changing, rocking etc. These are tremendous opportunities.’
‘Altered consciousness, an altered experience. That’s what abstract cinema should be doing.’
An Artist’s Life
Abramović came on the stage, accompanied by seven women in red dresses and seven men in long white lab coats and trousers. She explained the symbolism that the red stood for menstrual blood and the white is for sperm. (She was wearing a white shirt, black skirt, waistcoat and boots, and red glasses.)
Abramović conducted them like a choir. After she had read out a point of the manifesto, the choir responded with three different answers, the third of which was often repeated three times in a crescendo reacting to her arm movements. Lines included:
‘An artist’s relation to life:
An artist should not kill other human beings.’
‘An artist’s relation to his love life:
An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist.’
‘An artist’s relation to silence:
An artist has to understand silence.
An artist has to create a space for silence to enter his work.
Silence is like an island in the middle of a turbulent ocean.’
‘An artist’s conduct in relation to work:
An artist should avoid his own art pollution.’
‘Different funeral scenarios:
The funeral is the artist’s last art piece before leaving.’
[Enter, dressed in a potato suit.]
In the background, she showed her filmed manifesto What to Do? How to Do It (A Potato Story) . In the film, Varda was dressed as a potato too. Sometimes she mirrored live the action on the screen.
‘We go forward inventing, but we also go backward, destroying, losing some quality of life.’
‘All those different varieties of potato remind us how many different types of people there are.’
There followed scenes of potatoes that were not the right size being discarded, and a man decrying the waste.
‘Some people have to bend down and salvage what others have thrown out.’
‘Let’s eat differently with less choice of food’ – as a means of reducing air miles.
There then followed three ‘sequences about problems’. The first was racial intolerance, signified by the arrest of a Jewish family during the 1930s. The second was a segment about feminism; ‘I tried to be a happy feminist, but I was angry.’ The film made the point that if the battle for women’s rights had been so hard in the supposedly developed nation of France, how much worse was it in developing countries. The third was oil slicks and natural disasters.
The film finished with a man and a woman, both with covered heads like the Magritte painting, kissing. They then walk backwards revealing their nakedness and his sexual arousal.
Introduction by JPJ and HUO
Towards a free art school
‘Education is about exchanging ideas, learning to learn and communicate for yourself. Art education works best when it focuses on encouraging people to make and organise things for themselves, rather than telling them what to do and speaking at them like this, from a podium, wearing a suit.’
‘We want to reclaim the questioning and creative spirit of the Enlightenment … This is not a call to go back in time – it is a call for us to realize that each of us actively makes history.’
‘There’s a sense of confusion about the purpose and aspirations of learning about art’ in which the art schools reflect the shift to consumerism – ‘fewer teachers teaching more students, for less time, in studios that shrink from one year to the next.’
‘Students are increasingly cautions and conservative in their attitude towards the education they receive, and the purpose it serves; preoccupied with perfecting their work as a product to be brought to market when the leave.’ This results in a ‘risk-averse approach’ that reinforces norms.
‘Reject art as a career path.’
‘Let’s face it, if you can’t experiment with unsafe sex and smoking, and if even free speech becomes a no-no, then the culture of art is bound to be constrained by society’s wider fears about honest disagreement and risk-taking.’
Willats first introduced his manifesto:
‘The idea of my manifestos in the 1960s was to define a kind of ideological territory, to advance practice.’ He continued by saying that in the 1990s, he decided that the manifesto was redundant as it was an ‘object language’ that only allowed a one-way flow of information: ‘It’s like the radio, a relic.’
‘I see we are living in the middle of a revolution; not a revolutionary movement led by the rhetoric of new manifestos, but one being driven through an evolution in technology over the last 20 years, a technology of interactive networks, which are ultimately self-organising.’
Willats said that artists haven’t taken these on board, still upholding an ‘object-centred society founded on a one-way network of transmission, one that projects the artwork as an icon of immortality of the permanence and status of property’.
‘A purely descriptive art reflects the status quo … perhaps even amplifies and reinforces them, and this is undoubtedly what most art does, as society gets the art that it wants.’
‘A distinguishing feature of the interactive net from transmissional networks is the ability of the transmitter or receiver to ask a question and to get a response.’
‘Only when networks between artists are fully independent of the existing value structures projected by the institutional world of art … will the artist be able to move the agenda of art forwards to embrace the potential of networks of exchange, those same networks that are shaping the fabric of communication in society.’
[Explain Yourself was published on the occasion of the Manifesto Marathon and handed out to the audience – the remaining copies will be distributed.]
HUO (after the performance) – ‘The artist fetched these 190 sentences from members of the public in London. So each postcard is a separate manifesto. It is not a ‘manifesto’ but a Manafesto, mana being the Arabic for “I”.’
[Two people on either side of the Pavilion take turns reading these postcards. These were then distributed to the audience at the end, and the artist asked them to post them to someone. Examples of the exchanges include:]
‘End the credit crunch.’
‘It’s all about me. No, cross that out. “It”.’
‘Very displeased between the difference between which and for.’
‘Art can’t change the world, but it might assist it.’
‘Patience is beautiful.’
‘More contraception, please. There’s too many people.’
‘Happiness, music, love.’
‘Everyone getting along.’
[Having started off strictly taking turns, the two readers sometimes become antagonistic, interrupting each other, repeating their slogan at greater volume to shout the other down.]
‘Prevention is better than the cure.’
‘Get rid of politicians.’
‘Have a nice day.’
‘The most important thing is to keep smiling.’
‘Cultures should grow together.’
‘La vie est fantastique.’
‘Manifesto Machine exists of two parts. This division is the only real formal decision made. Part One consists of different kinds of doubling … Part Two is the subjective navigation of Part One.’
[Part One consists of nine axioms under the headings: manifesto, time, space, form, individuation, the body, articulations, statements and performativity.]
‘Time: There are two modes of temporality. There is the floating time of events and the time of measure (of situations, things and persons). The connection between both is made by language and space.’
‘The Statements: There are two types of statements. The first type is always the result of collective agents of enunciation. The second type is the individual statement generated by conscious thoughts and intentions.’
‘Not I Not Here Not Now.’
‘The idea of speech gives as a reflection the possibility of not being able to speak in the form of a figure that doesn’t speak but thinks.’
‘The relation between speech and the potential to act must be sought in the opening of the locus “I” could not speak.’
Pacing the floor, Pendleton delivered a text that was a polemical spoken word piece (including snatches of sarcastic singing) that often returned to the concept of Black Dada, and of how art had been co-opted by the white West with its believe in the primacy of institutions.
‘What is Black Dada?’
‘She Black Dada’d her shoes.’
‘White Dada remains within the frame of European weakness.’
‘Black Dada the history of art. Which is to say “Fuck you, motherfucker, why are you always deciding what art is?”’
Paris noyée, Londres au fond de la Tamise, quelle architecture?
[Parent spoke in French with the aid of a translator]
‘When I was 27, I only drew squares. Impeccable. But in the middle of the square, I was alone … you’re always shut in. So I decided to do slopes. This makes you free … That is the fonction oblique. This happened in 1964.’
‘Sea levels are rising. Agricultural land is being reduced. Population is rising, which is a good thing. African and Indians are having children, but so are Europeans. France is top the list in Europe, which is good. We may lose at football, but we can produce children.’
[Slide of Paris]
‘2050: Only the top floor of the Eiffel tower is above water
2500. Nothing is left. Fish swim through the Arc de Triomphe. They love it. It’s the same thing in London.’
His solution was to ‘fill the town with cement’, but keeping some houses for ‘underwater tourism’. On top of this would be a structure, made without thought, without streets or squares. This would be rolled out ‘like a carpet’, on top of which plants would be grown.
Then there would be huge machines, which would make random incisions into the surface, revealing the structure below. People would take it in turns to be the machine operator. This incision had to be oblique so that there would be communication between the bottom and the green surface.
‘I don’t know if you’ll be happier, but I don’t really care. I’m just trying to solve a disaster.’
(Hyper Early Club & Brutally Early Club)
‘HEC/BEC is a salon for our times.’
‘HEC starts at 3am, grey-zone between the end of one day and the start of the next. BEC start at 6.30am, just before the new waking day begins.’
‘HEC/BEC takes place in a central, public an easily accessible location … Perambulation is good for conversation.’
‘HEC/BEC is about conversation.’
‘HEC/BEC is polyphonic. Several conversations may occur at once. There is no moderator neither pre-advanced themes.’
‘HEC/BEC believes there must be a time and a place where conversation is not measured by the cultural, commercial or institutional value of the output. HEC/BEC therefore does not permit audiences, recordings or transcripts. HEC/BEC however does like notes and doodles during sessions.’
‘HEC/BEC has introduced the word “ever” as its customary greeting and farewell.’
No more silly hats
‘Perhaps it should begin with statements about my intentions, but I’ve never worn silly hats.’
‘The hat of nationalism is very heavy and entirely too stupid.’
‘The nation of artists must the same as that of artists, scientists and musicians.’
‘It seems that living in cities, which partly means living in architecture is nature … We have become, just as the Europeans feared, cosmopolitan.’
‘The centre of this manifesto is that humans are not created by God, not finished products.’
‘We need a world government completely away from nation states.’
‘In the UK, there is still the idea that the artist must be able to draw well. That art should be a series of visual representations of the world is stupid.’
Durham then talked about money, saying how it was so prevalent that it had become invisible, and that we don’t talk about it, except through filters such as economics and Marxism: ‘We need a biology of money. Money comes in unannounced at every opening and now has gone beyond our knowledge.’
‘I want to act foolish. I will stand before you with the sole definition that I am standing before you.’
The end of the yes regime
De Graaf started by saying that since the end of the Berlin Wall, we now have a world unified by commerce. In the world of culture, there is now enhanced competition, pushing the museums into ‘increasing positions of extravagance’.
In a world where ‘artists are increasingly celebrities’, artists have started ripping ideas off each other much more.
He then discussed branding, with special reference to the Guggenheim: ‘Architecture is the prime tool to market a region … But for how much longer.’
‘Dubai Towers is a trademark’ which is being exported elsewhere.
De Graaf showed slides of ‘iconic’ buildings, saying that the only thing ‘iconic’ was the size: ‘This is an eagle that is large. This is a snake that is large.’
‘The city has become an icon of excess made up by an excess of icons.’
Talking about the globalisation of architecture: ‘Our Disney is their Disney.’
‘The full impact of the stock exchange has become important … Maybe this skyline is part of the culture of an excess of greed. It kind of mirrors the graph of the collapse of stocks.’
He argued that we now need a form of generic architecture, like generic medicine, and that this was a ‘manifesto for a new type of simplicity™’.
A Field Manual for Dyschronia
Photograph © Alison Clarke
This took the form of two of the members of the Group having an interview/dialogue. They started by posing as 150-year-old artists.
‘Is it happening yet?’
‘How severe will it be?’
Rather than waiting to be overwhelmed by floods and ecological disaster, ‘shouldn’t we take a wiser course?’
‘Whatever makes us doubt ourselves … this will become the future basis of the present law.’
‘The future is aground.’
One of the main themes of their manifesto was the nature of threat, and that of the attitudes towards it:
‘Can you talk shelter inside the promise of the threat?’
[On why this manifesto is an interview]
‘I have no wish to make a declaration of my intent. It’s very 20th century, very male … I thought that a 21st-century manifesto would be more like a dialogue.’
‘The 20th century was “if”; I hope that the 21st century is “how”.’
[HUO asked Sehgal to explain his ideas about aristocracy]
‘One of the characteristics of the class system is that the aristocracy is exempt from labour – it governs, but has a lot of free time to spend. It spends this on refinement – manners, the art of living. It has to demonstrate all the time it can waste on, for example, on the way it speaks.’
‘Now the new ruling class, the bourgeoisie, doesn’t have the time to spend refining itself, because they still have to work. So how do they refine themselves? By buying things.’
Sehgal said that this impulse was the impetus for building museums, which are a quintessentially Western phenomenon: ‘There’s no ritual in other societies of people looking at things.’
‘We should bring back refinement, constructing yourself, not just the object. I hope the 21st century will be about bringing these refinements to people en masse.’
[The discussion then opened up to the floor]
‘What does Modernism mean? It means to create a past that’s inferior. It wants to create a rupture. It’s a very simplistic notion. The biggest achievement of Postmodernism is the recognition of the importance of the past.’
You Blew Up My House
[To deliver his manifesto – a mixture of poetry and prose passages, Holmqvist sat down on the step at the front of the podium]
‘Alienation in the workplace / Making money / Control’
‘Slaves in ancient Egypt, slaves in / Mexico, slaves in Rome / Child workers in China’
‘Alienation in the workplace / Working from 5 to 9’
‘Who said sending people off to prison was normal / Control’
‘Wearing the pants / Why do clothes have sexes? Control’
‘It seems strange, with all the wealth in the world. All the machines, all the airplanes circulating products and people, public zoos and swimming pools, that people don’t have better lives. Or maybe they do.’
‘It seems hopeful … that at least we’re no longer thinking about war as normal, even though war is everywhere – not in the West, of course. Not in Europe or the United States, but we have our wars elsewhere. We fight them out on television, through remote control. It’s a collective decision that certain areas of our planet should be used for conflict, that’s all. We have garbage piles for garbage, and we have conflict zones.’
‘Let me hear you say / One World, One Love / Let’s all ghetto together / And feel alright.’
The place of the material world in the universe is that of an exquisitely beautiful precipitate or varied cloud-work in the universal ether
Laessing and an assistant posed as a scientist and a journalist respectively. The manifesto took form as a media interview. Both of them were in the central aisle of the Pavilion. In between them was a table on which was an electrical apparatus, made of clear plastic. In the centre of this apparatus was a wheel that was spinning quickly round.
The premise was that the scientist had found a way to tap into free power. That this process had been known about for a while, but it was being hindered by energy companies. This involved taking it out of pockets of the universe, then closing that circuit before it was too drained. We, the customers, would have some kind of aerial that could pick this power up.
Manifesto for Multiplicity
The members of this collective entered the Pavilion from the back, each wearing a sash that matched the colour of a placard, on which was painted a heraldic/totemic symbol. They then took turns in reciting an elliptical text.
‘I am the first SpRoUt event. I am a pagan festival and a political parade. I am the spirit of May Days past.’
There is a refrain, which grows by a line at different moments during the play. In full, it is:
‘We are what we have done.
You are plural.
Will what could have been.
Fiction is not fictional.
I stay still to keep moving.
They will look back to go forwards.
May day! May day! May day!’
‘I navigate the night sky, using the darkness as a reference point rather than the points of light? I deconstellate. I think the thoughts of the outside of the sky.’
‘The Landlord had had it up to the neck. He kicked them out, kit and caboodle, left to wander the streets of Manhattan in their Vivienne Westwood body suits. Very “à la mode”.’
‘Collaboration gives structure to awareness. And in doing so it blurs, and perhaps even effaces, the distinction between subject and object, since collaboration is neither, being intermediate, between the two.’
‘The fiery tail of the comet is the trace of the rock that immediately precedes it.’
[At the end, one of the members sat on step to the podium playing the banjo, while another sang a wordless accompaniment.]
Art Strike Biennial
[Appeared with his assistant Mr Dog (a hand puppet)]
Home started by saying how he had proposed an art strike for 1990-3, and how he was now proposing one in Lithuania in 2009 to coincide with the forthcoming Biennial in Vilnius as part of the programme of its being European City of Culture.
‘I thought that I could put the manifesto online and do a performance piece here.’
‘As you know, Henri Bergson said that repetition is the basis of humour. I used to have a piece where I would do an argument with both people repeating the same phrase.’
Home said how he had intended just to repeat the URL of his manifesto for 20 minutes, but he didn’t think that he could have managed it. He then told a couple of jokes:
‘An artist went to his dealer. “How am I doing?”
“Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is man came in asking if the value of your paintings would go up if you died. I said ‘Yes’, and he bought 20. The bad news is he’s your doctor.”’
[He then repeated the manifesto’s URL quite a few times, sometimes as himself, sometimes as Mr Dog]
Feel Better Now (Apathy and the New Sincerity)
Photograph © Alison Clarke
Using props – doll, wig, hard hat, Creature from the Black Lagoon feet, Union flag, etc. – this manifesto was a performance piece. The performer (Jonny Woo) was wearing a tight green spangly leotard, but often donned more outfits, like a wig or a dress, or the monster feet, as he declaimed the manifesto.
‘Tomorrow I want to see rainbows all days of my life.
Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.’
‘The universal mind has been asleep, pregnant with the future.’
‘There is always an alternative. There will always be something new, making us proud again.’
‘There is no such thing as hypnosis.’
‘We are cum plunged deeper, unleashed determination. I just want some. We are the makers of history.’
‘It’s hell inside; it’s hell outside. Last words: the world exists. There’s no analogy for that.’
‘Don’t listen to words.’
The Droid Manifesto
‘Today, I’m going to preface my manifesto with another manifesto, the manifesto of WAGE – a group of New York artists with whom I’ve been working. It stands for Working Artists and the Greater Economy.’
Hardy explained that WAGE was fighting for artists to be paid for the work they do. She argued that too often, artists and curators are not paid for the services they provide.
Hardy said how it is terrible that artists don’t benefit from the secondary or tertiary market: ‘WAGE refutes the positioning of the artist as a speculator.’
The artist then started talking about the Pavilion itself, saying that she didn’t like the fact that in a Pavilion for which the publicity had talked about the proximity to Speakers’ Corner and the tradition of free speech there were guide ropes, keeping out people who hadn’t paid an admission fee. ‘I live on less on than £20 a day. I wouldn’t be able to pay to see myself today. This is not free speech … The red ropes are the signifiers of the elite.’ She then removed the red ropes from all the stanchions, which elicited some cheers and claps from some of the audience, and draped them round her neck, before delivering her second manifesto, about political and sexual freedom.
‘We do not operate within the comfort zone.
Are we a new breed without gender?
We subvert dominant sexuality
We expel the barriers forced upon us.’
‘We may look like we have dick. We may not. You can’t read, and it doesn’t matter.’
London: A Manifesto from Your Animals
[The artist delivered his manifesto into a microphone the signal of which was processed to split into different pitches simultaneously – at various points, the sound man changed the setting so there was a kind of electronic squall.]
‘Attention, humans of London …’
Haeg then went through various animals (bee, hedgehog, grey heron – illustrated by slides) with their messages
‘I am demanding an immediate halt to your … farming methods, based on a narrow and rather boring monoculture.’
‘Warmest appreciation to you all (and sorry for the stinging).’
‘Leave dead wood around to encourage beetles. They are delicious.’
‘Cut the plastic rings off four-pack plastic holders. I get stuck, stave, and die.’
‘I am demanding that every wall and fence in the city of London has a hedgehog-sized hole somewhere at its base.’
‘Thanks for the improved water in the Thames. Now I have returned.’
Standing at the lectern, Jencks delivered a political speech that tied in the financial collapse, ecological disaster, globalisation and terror.
‘Since the 1960s, and the neo-avant-garde, the manifesto has become indistinguishable from marketing.’
Jencks continued with the example of Damien Hirst, who was more a brand name than an artist.
‘A manifesto has to be self-critical, ironic – it has to criticize its own assumptions.’
[Slide of the front page of The Financial Times, with a big picture of a gurning Hank Paulson]
‘By buying out Fannie Mae, he caused the credit crunch’ (as it caused a lack of investor confidence). ‘As if to prove how stupid he was, he let the Lehman bank go to the wall, thus doubling the problem.’
[Slide of an Iraqi man dancing in Nike shoes on a burnt-out American jeep]
‘The fundamentalists take on aspects of the system they oppose.’
Despite the ‘unmistakable signs’ that globalisation has caused ecological disaster, ‘the juggernaut continues’.
Jencks then discussed how Russia and the US were viewing the tragedy of the melting of the Polar ice cap as an ‘opportunity’ for a new site for tourism, new shipping lanes being opened up and new fish stocks to be accessible.
A Century of Manifestos
‘I have no manifesto to provide – and I’ve never drafted such a document.’ But Professor Hobsbawm said that he had read manifestos ‘for the best part of a century’ so he felt like he could sense some patterns.
‘Systematic manifesto-readers are a 20th-century phenomenon. There were manifestos beforehand, but they were called Declarations, e.g. the Declaration of Independence.’
He then talked about the hijacking of the idea of the manifesto for the corporate ‘mission statement’.
There then followed an interview between HUO and Professor Hobsbawm
‘Even though historian deal with the past, it’s hard to resist speculating about what will happen.’
‘Globalisation produced enormous inequalities, within countries as much as between countries, and immense instability.’
Until last year, hardly anyone in the Western countries, where we live like princes, cared about the population about India. We didn’t really know what a real crash was like, unlike Brazil, Mexico, South East Asia, Argentina. Now we ought to know.’
‘The problem isn’t whether the economy should be a market or a public one, but what the mixture should be, and what its social objectives should be … How this mixture will be made depends on politics – that of the US, and how much we introduce fear into the minds of the rich.’
He continued that the environment was the only real problem that required a global solution ‘but it is the one thing that has not been globalised’.
Professor Hobsbawm then took questions from the floor:
[On Communism, after Gustav Metzger’s question on the role of Communism in Hobsbawm’s life and the future of the movement]
There aren’t any significant Communist parties in Europe at the moment. It is a movement that belonged to the 20th century as a movement. Within 30 years of Lenin, one third of humanity was Communist. But it doesn’t work anymore. There will develop other movements.’
[On the rise of 21st-century socialism in Latin America]
‘One of the few positive developments. Brazil has genuinely become a democracy. How far it is socialism, how far a mixed economy trying to emancipate itself from the US is not clear. It is quite clear that the US has lost the control over Latin America which it has had since 1914.’
Manifesto of Non-Durational Time
[Two guitarists, seated back to back; the man is lit red, the woman is lit green. Both are shown on a split screen]
[him] ‘Time is not new. It’s not durational. It’s not a straight line.’
[her] ‘It’s not an arrow pointing towards the fu… the future anew.’
[The same musical and lyrical couplet was repeated many times]
Younger and Stronger Men
Kolbowski’s manifesto took the form of two speakers, both middle-aged men, standing at lecterns on opposite sides of the Pavilion. Taking turn to speak, their tone ranged from placatory, even oleaginous, to strident and haranguing. Meanwhile, behind them was a slide show, which included many images of audiences listening in different contexts.
‘We are on the extreme.’
‘We are already living in the absolute.’
‘What can you find in a picture except the contortions of the artist? … There is no masterpiece that doesn’t have an aggressive character. Time and space died yesterday.’
At one point, one of them quoted the notorious Futurist dictum ‘Divert the canals to flood the cellars of the museum.’
HUO: ‘You are invited by the Taverna Especial to collect soup and a blanket for you consumption and comfort …We are on the brink of a new chaos & we have to let go of all perceptions and rules.’
[Meanwhile, a monochrome film loop is playing on screen. It is an aerial view of a black table, on which is a white downturned triangle. A game of flicking the balls is going on – one can only see the players and the referee’s (white-gloved) hands. Everyone goes and gets pumpkin soup and their marathon-style silver blankets – on the packet of which is written ‘Taverna Especial soupkitchenserpentinegallerypavilion2008’, and the Pavilion is turned into one big rustle.]
[Wearing 4 inch heels. Knee-high boots. Stylised armour-like clothes. Hair done up with pony tail like a samurai, white make-up]
[Talks very animatedly for about ten minutes (imaginative language) as a slide show proceeds at a similarly fast pace. Some are diagrams of crystalline structure, there’s the famous picture of the man self-immolating in protest of the Vietnam war. Other images include: the cover of Blast magazine, much gay pornography, cartoons, National Geographic-style photographs, mandalas and himself, sometimes in drag. He breaks into song when the cover of Joy Division’s LP Closer is on.]
For the last minute, Koh broke into English. Text included:
‘I praise myself only to you
I am singing to I
I am future I
I am rainbow, I am hologram’
‘I hope that you are taking away not only experiences but thoughts about your view of the world. We’ve had 61 manifestos in hours. This is a new destination.
This is the last day of the Frank Gehry Pavilion. It will go to its new home. For us, the summer has finished tonight. It’s an extraordinary sight seeing you all dressed up like Christmas decorations.’
‘I’m very proud to thank everyone who’s participated; artists, writers, architects, designers and many others, but especially HUO for his concept of the Marathons in the first place, and his chairing of this one.’
Serpentine Gallery Manifesto Marathon Blog
written by Tom Cobbe 2008
Click on the names below to link to their blog entry:
Mark Aerial Waller & Giles Round
Pier Vittorio Aureli
Gilbert & George
Reinier de Graaf (for Rem Koolhaas, OMA)
Ingo Niermann & Zak Kyes
Hans Ulrich Obrist
The Otolith Group
Julia Peyton-Jones [JPJ]
Raqs Media Collective
Tino Sehgal & Hans Ulrich Obrist
Photograph © Mark Blower