What is an artist’s manifesto?
An artist manifesto (from the Latin manifestus meaning clear, evident) is a declaration of the perspectives, motives, or intentions of an artist or artistic movement. Sometimes they are written in order to achieve a political goal. Typical themes include freedom of expression, the role of the artist in society, and the purpose of art-making. They are often structured with a number of statements (using vigorous language) which do not necessarily follow logically from one to the next.
Tips and guidelines for writing your own
Use the process of writing your manifesto as a process of synthesizing what you feel most strongly about that’s in some way related to the work you are doing. What’s most important to you? Why are you interested in artistic practice and/or media making? How does the industry and/or the world need to be changed? Don’t be afraid to be bold!
A manifesto is usually a cranky, passionate, and persuasive document. The motivation for writing a manifesto is more often than not a dissatisfaction at the way things are, and by starting your own movement you set in motion a plan to fix it. The Communist Manifesto and The Declaration of Independence are probably the two most widely know and influential manifestos.
Your manifesto can be as serious or as funny as you want it to be. Will you make up your own movement? Would you like to write an open letter to a specific group of people you despise? Do you want to parody a well-known manifesto? The choice is totally up to you. You can have a lot of fun writing your manifesto. Establish a set of ideas, what you intend to change, and include any background your readers may need to understand where you’re coming from. This is essentially a work of persuasive and expository writing that presents an argument with supporting statements and claims.
A highly effective rhetorical device and poetic technique are to begin your paragraphs or sentences with the same or similar word or phrase (anaphora). A classic example is Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech delivered on August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. in which there’s a repetition of phrases at both the beginning and the end of some sentences (epistrophe, the counterpoint to anaphora).
Manifestos are often structured with numbered points which breaks up the statements and gives the impression you have several specific points to make in order to change the world (e.g. “The Anti Web 2.0 Manifesto”). Consider making up a set of rules to go along with your manifesto (e.g. the Vow of Chastity associated with DOGME 95).
The following resources provide essential tips that might come in useful as you write your manifesto:
- How To Write Your Manifesto In 5 Steps, The Huffington Post, July 11, 2014
- Why Everyone Should Write a Manifesto by Teresa Griffith, Lifehack
The following examples are provided for inspiration, consider reading/viewing those that strike your fancy for inspiration (links to web pages unless otherwise indicated):
- The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto by Martine Syms, et al.
- How to be alone (video) by Tanya Davis, video by filmmaker Andrea Dorfman and poet/singer/songwriter Tanya Davis
- The Make Art Manifesto by Austin Kleon
- First Manifesto of Surrealism by André Breton, 1924
- Illustrated: Salvador Dali’s Manifesto For A Creative Life
- An Interactive Documentary Manifesto by Andre Almeida and Heitor Alvelos, 2010, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 6432, pp. 123-128
- The Advantages of Being A Woman Artist by Guerrilla Girls, 1989
- An artist’s life Manifesto by Marina Abramovic, 2011
- The Art of Noise (PDF) by Luigi Russolo, 1913
- A Cyborg Manifesto by Donna Haraway, 1991
- Why Cheap Art Manifesto by Bread and Puppet Theater, 1984
- Riot Grrrl Manifesto by Kathleen Hanna, June 5, 2013
- DOGME 95 by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, 1995, see also the Vow of Chastity associated with this manifesto
- The Anti Web 2.0 Manifesto (Adorno-for-idiots) by Andrew Keen, April 25, 2007, iDC mailing list
- The Art of Home Movies or To Hell With The Professionalism of Television and Cinema Producers (PDF) by Richard Leacock, 1993
- The Agile Manifesto, by Kent Beck et al., February 2001, see also the “Twelve Principles” associated with this manifesto
- The Expert Enough Manifesto by Corbett Barr, 2014