Prelude.12: About Manifestos

Big Art Group

Yesterday’s portion of Prelude’s program was dedicated to manifestos.

Manifestos are contending to articulate a clear standpoint. Differentiation is not their job. The manifesto is very fast in subsuming perceptions under certain notions. These notions are eventually structured by a (more or less conscious) normative approach of the manifesto`s author.

After participating in Prelude’s manifesto-Marathon Jessica Applebaum, Maxwell Cramer and Kai Tuchmann discussed the old literary genre of the manifesto and its usage by Prelude’s artists with the hope that it can ripple out to a larger conversation on the web.  Here is an excerpt of our chat:

Maxwell: Manifestos.  Yeah.  Let’s talk about them.  It was exciting.  An exciting form for me.

Jessica:[…] I pause to think about what a manifesto is.  Some of what I was witnessing were declarations of artistic statements or artistic processes and others were forms of rupture.

Like Big Art Group changed the room.

Maxwell:  Right.

Jessica:  And the last piece as well … Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People’s The Problem with Dancing ignited the room and I think that Branden Jacobs-Jenkins I Promise Never Ever Again to Write Plays About Asians… in which he chose to have himself performed by a body ‘other’ than his put into tension his [commoditised] identity and his investigations of how race is constructed.

For people who weren’t able to be at Prelude yesterday, Big Art Group came in with a giant …

Maxwell:  Inflatable.

Jessica:  garbage bag that filled the room and overtook the audience.

I couldn’t hear completely what the text was… did you hear?

Maxwell:  I only caught snatches of it.  They were talking about fiasco replacing character.  Cyborg.  Subjectivity.  Queering the discourse surrounding dramaturgy and theater.

Kai: […] actually I would wonder if we had seen any manifestos at all.  Because I think that all presentations developed somehow strategies to undermine the essentialist approaches of manifestos.

So I’m just talking in terms of the mediality of manifestos…  who of yesterday`s artists really dealt with the medium of manifesto?  It was quite interesting for me to see that either the artists chose other formats like talks and lectures or they strong aesthetic approaches, which somehow undermined the idea of giving a manifestos.

Maxwell:  Are you thinking about the historical avant-garde manifestos?  Marinetti…

Kai:  Somehow, so my background is in theater so I know these guys who wrote theater manifestos: Grotowski, Barba and somehow Brecht. […]  Their manifestos are clearly beyond irony. They say: now we are here and now we create a rupture now we reinvent the world and politics.

Jessica:  I think Gutierrez was performing a manifesto.  His piece The Problem With Dancing was simultaneous performed with him in San Francisco on Skype with Andrew Champlin in New York.

Maxwell: In unison they presented a litany, pages of statements of what dance is not and what dance can’t do.  But then it built to a sort of joyous…

Kai:  It was performance…

Maxwell:  Dance…

Kai:  materiality … scope …

I would say his piece was about the impossibility of manifestos.

Jessica: That’s so interesting.  Yes, we’ve gotten to a place of impossibility.

After the spoken portion there was a burst of energy.

Maxwell:  Where they embrace.

Jessica:  The kiss. Both performers bring men into the frame and passionately kiss, entwine themselves. It broke the frame of the spoken portion of the manifesto or anti-manifesto and reminded us that we are not just minds but bodies.

Then to go to classical movement.

Maxwell: To Robin.

Jessica:  Who?

Maxwell:  She’s Swedish Euro pop.

Jessica:  Ok!  Well that’s great context.  If you have this Swedish Euro-Pop with classical ballet and two naked men with fabric tool belts around their waists … It provides a …

Maxwell:  An interesting collision of forms and discourse.  It was very joyous.

Jessica:  And also very angry and also in the moment.  What I appreciated was the pause within it when Miguel broke form, broke from the text and criticized Obama for the increasing moments of drone action in Afghanistan compared to George W. Bush’s administration.  An important moment, which points to politics and our contemporary moment…

Kai:  But this is exactly what I mean so the political involvement happens when the manifesto or the performance pauses.

Jessica:  In that regard I think that the end of Leah Nanako Winkler piece was just the beginning of a manifesto.

Maxwell:  Yeah she presented us with an institutional critique, the precarious nature of making theatre-work.  It was interesting that she came after Foreman who is coming place of financial privilege.

Jessica:  I appreciated his idea of change.  That manifestos are actions of change but it felt like a nostalgic look at manifestos.  As he said he’s maintaining the same form of aesthetics that he’s been practicing … Do manifestos have to be contemporary?

Kai:   There seems to be an anxiety towards manifestos. So you’re putting something on stage, either the race question or the gender question and then with the means that you’re using performance wise, you’re putting that question back again.

Jessica:  But I think that Jay Scheib didn’t display a form of anxiety … there is something political in negotiating or putting into tension the virtual world and our present world.   And also Tina Satter’s work, which shared her anxiety as an artist isn’t a political anxiety.

Tina Satter came up with her company and performed Schmoetics (A Poetics Talk) …

Maxwell:  Quotations from her work.  The songs that they sang and there was a monologue and a song performed.

Jessica:  What came across very strongly for me was how important writing from a place of deep felt emotion is for her.

Kai:  I would especially point this presentation out because they put something on stage and they didn’t break that with irony.

Jessica:  In the same way I don’t think that Branden Jacobs-Jenkins broke or backed away from his manifesto.  The last moment was one in which the actor speaking his words ate a pill creating a final image of a minstrel performer.

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