02 Dec
Wed / 2015

Inside the MFAH
How to Make an Artist’s Manifesto: Recipe for Revolution

The exhibition “Violence and Precision”: Artists’ Manifestoes, on view at the Hirsch Library, features a selection of artists’ manifestoes from the early 20th century to the present.

What is an artist’s manifesto, anyway? Crafted to persuade and convert readers, manifestoes are public declarations describing a person or group’s policies, goals, and opinions. In 1918, avant-garde writer Tristan Tzara addressed the topic in the Dada Manifesto.

In his pithy style, Tzara wrote that “to proclaim a manifesto you have to want: A.B.C., thunder against 1, 2, 3, lose your patience and sharpen your wings to conquer and spread little ABCs and big ABCs . . .” Tzara refers to the standard “recipe” for a manifesto: all the ingredients that create a movement’s urgency and vigor.

Manifestoes played a critical, defining role in many artistic movements of the 20th century as Futurists, Dadaists, and Surrealists embraced their power to challenge orthodoxy and fundamentally change visual practice.

How to make an artist’s manifesto
As Futurist leader F. T. Marinetti recommended, artists imbue their manifestoes with “violence and precision” to energize a group against a common threat and lay out a plan for future action.

Step 1
Designate an enemy and chronicle a fervent (and somewhat limited) history of persecution leading up to the climactic moment of rupture.

In his 1909 manifesto, Marinetti—who initiated the “Manifesto moment” in the early 20th century—pitted Futurism against Italy’s history and traditions, claiming that artists and writers were suffering under the weight of the past.

Step 2
List demands and declarations in response to wrongdoings.

In The Realistic Manifesto (1920), Russian constructivist Naum Gabo listed color, line, and volume amongst the elements he was renouncing in favor of space and time as essential artistic elements.

Step 3
Antagonize a group and pit “us” against “them” in an aggressive call for action.

This language unifies “us” and makes others feel included, as in the “Superflat” manifesto when Takashi Murakami asks “Where is our reality?” He proposes Superflat as a special quality of Japanese art that separates it from Western influence.

See “Violence and Precision” on view at the Hirsch Library through February 28. Admission to the Hirsch Library is always free.


Recent Posts

Post Archives

Tag Cloud

18th-century 1970s 19th-century 35mm 5womenartists abstract activity african-art a-history-of-photography akan american american-art ancient and angelica-kauffmann animals anna-atkins antiquities architecture archive art art-books artist artists art-of-the-islamic-worlds arts-of-india azaleas bayou bayou-bend bayou-bend-christmas-village bend bestowing-beauty biblical biography british british-arrows british-art broadways-amazing-mastersons buffalo-bayou-park-cistern campus campus-redevelopment carroll-sterling-masterson chair chef chinese-art christmas christmas-fun cinema cisternrain classic classic-films coffee collection color colors-of-the-oasis community concrete conservation contemporary-art contemporary-arts-museum-houston contemporary-film contesting-modernity countess cullen-sculpture-garden culture curator curators-picks dance decorative-arts degas degas-a-new-vision design digital documentary documents dont-blink-robert-frank drama drawings dutch-art electronic elizabeth-i england e-records exhibition exhibitions eye-on-houston family family-programs fashion fashion-fusion feast festival fiber-arts field film films flowers food francis-bacon free french french-art fun future futuremfah gainsborough gallery gallery-interpretation garden garden-paradise gardens george-iii glassell glassell-school-of-art google-art-project google-arts-and-culture habsburg-splendor-masterpieces-from-viennas-imperial-collections halloween happyhour happy-new-year harris-masterson-iii henry-viii hirsch-library history history-book-club holiday holiday-fun hollywood home homemfah homeso-different-so-appealing houston howe hurricane-harvey icaa ikat ima-hogg impressionism indian-art instagram interactive ipads islamic italian japanese-art john-biggers joshua-reynolds kenwood kids king kodak kusama latin latin-america latin-american latin-american-art latino-art latin-wave latinx laura-israel learning-and-interpretation love mail manet maria-fernanda-cardoso mastersons mayan-art media meditation mending-craft-and-community mexican-film mexican-modernism mexico mfa-cafe mfah mfah-book-club mfah-films mfah-in-the-community mfah-staff modern modernism movie movies movies-houstonians-love mueck mueckmfah museum museum-education music native-american-art new nhprc now-on-view now-playing organic oscar-de-la-renta oscars painting paintings paint-the-revolution paris paul-thomas-anderson peacock-in-the-desert-the-royal-arts-of-jodhpur-india peacockmfah persian persian-art photographs photography picasso portrait portraits pose prints prints-and-drawings programs queen-victoria radical rebel-jester-mystic-poet recipe rembrandt-van-rijn rienzi ron-mueck rothko sampler school sculpted-in-steel sculpture self-portrait shadow-monsters shepherds short-films slow-art-day snail snapshot spain spanish-art spring style summer technology texas textiles thanksgiving the the-al-sabah-collection theater the-glamour-and-romance-of-oscar-de-la-renta trivia tudors-to-windsors valentines-day venezuelan-art video vincent-van-gogh vincent-van-gogh-his-life-in-art virtual wagner-garden-carpet watercolor winter women-filmmakers womens-history-month works-on-paper yoga zoom