The West Coast premiere of Julian Rosefeldt’s “Manifesto” (2015): Historic artist manifestos are remixed into brilliant and contradictory personas played by Cate Blanchett

“Does anyone think he has found a psychic base common to all mankind? how can one expect to put order into the chaos that constitutes that infinite and shapeless variation: man?”

Actor Cate Blanchett recites these words, taken from Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto 1918 in a declaration mash-up that intersperses material from Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Philippe Soupault’s, Literature and the Rest (1920). This is the prologue to Julian Rosefeldt’s 13 channel cinematic installation, “Manifesto,” featuring Blanchett enacting thirteen dramatically diverse personas, each remixing excerpts from artist manifestos throughout the canon of modern Western art history. The contradictions of Tzara’s speech encapsulate the arrogance and inconsistent nature that is part and parcel of the manifesto format: attempting to be the voice of a generation while simultaneously questioning the validity of one man’s capacity to speak universal truths. Tzara’s prose owns up to its flaws through a cheeky form of self reflexivity, “I’m against action; I’m for continuous contradiction. I am neither for nor against and I do not explain because I hate common sense.”

Throughout history, public figures have used the manifesto as a way to further their agenda, to assert their voice and leave their mark on a historical moment. Manifestos are revolutionary and polemical in tone, signifying a call to action; a progressive shift in a new direction. Thus, it was a fitting format for artists at the turn of the 20th century seeking to push forward the various agendas of the proliferating avant-garde. Rosefeldt mined the canon of modern artist manifestos to create thirteen mash-ups revolving around artistic movements from the last century, including the Situationists, Futurists, Dadaists, and Fluxus artists.

In a Western history governed by patriarchal, colonial tenets, it is unsurprising that the vast majority of known and archived manifestos are written by white men. How plausible is it that such a narrow representation of humanity can speak to a universal human experience, let alone one that can withstand the test of time? By remixing and re-contextualizing the words and sentiments of these late (mostly) male thinkers, Rosefeldt’s meditation on manifestos poses the question of their value. It is through Cate Blanchett’s brilliant performance that their value is transformed into something altogether different. Blanchett’s characters breathe new and provocative life into these historical proclamations. In the vignette, Vorticism/ Blue Rider/ Abstract Expressionism, Blanchett plays a CEO speaking at a private party. In this mash-up, Rosefeldt has merged the various stages of Abstract Expressionism beginning with Wassily Kandinsky and moving into Barnett Newman’s bold treatment of aesthetic philosophy. At one point, Blanchett interjects her own performance with another one; her voice stiffens into a monotonous, drone-like tone as she reads an excerpt from the writings of Vorticist artist, Wyndham Lewis (1914), “There is one Truth, ourselves, and everything is permitted. We are proud, handsome and predatory. We hunt machines, they are our favourite game. We invent them and then hunt them down.”

Each vignette is staged within a highly stylized dramatic backdrop such as the post apocalyptic wasteland surrounding the Teufelsberg spy tower in West Berlin. In this scene, Blanchett plays a homeless man stammering through a denouncement of the capitalist condition, invoking the words of Guy Debord, Alexander Rodtschenko, and other Situationists.

To a certain extent, “Manifesto” calls for a comparison of the now and then; how have the dynamics between politics, art and life shifted? These works perhaps reveal a shared belief in the revolutionary capacity of art, and the role of the artist as an active citizen. To this end, it is powerful to reinterpret these historical sentiments through Cate Blanchett’s bold performance. As Rosefeldt aptly surmises, “She’s not re-enacting them or reading them; she is the manifesto.” Through her various personas, something is provoked in the ominous stronghold that the male voice has maintained over historical narratives, in art and elsewhere.

“Manifesto” (2015) will make its West Coast premiere at Hauser and Wirth Los Angeles this month. Opening on October 27th, 2018, “Manifesto” will be on view until January 6th, 2019.

– Erika Barbosa

Julian Rosefeldt. Manifesto, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, February–November 2016 © David von Becker

A Creative Movement

We believe in creating memorable experiences, granting you exclusive access to the artistic mind in a purely creative environment. You are welcome to join us and be part of a creative movement.

Read More

Recent Articles

Suspect Realities

The 2018 Seattle Art Fair is more than just a gathering of local artists. This event displays 62 different exhibits from galleries across the world, including Seattle, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, Los Angeles and Tokyo. These galleries not only display paintings but also mixed media, sculptures, and other art mediums. One of these innovative exhibits is Suspect Realities, on loan from the Claire Oliver Gallery in New York.

Read More

Elizabeth Murray’s Visual Language in Her Story

Her Story embraces the geometric. The abstract work is composed of three angular canvases conceived together as one. Dissident triangles and rectangles are placed throughout the composition and painted in bright blues, greens, reds, purples, yellows and oranges. The layered canvases pop the painting out from laying flat against the wall and give the work a sculptural quality.

Read More

The Canvas as Sculpture: Chung Sang-hwa and Shin Sung-Hy

Blum & Poe in Los Angeles is presenting an exhibition that focuses on the work of Korean artists Chung Sang-hwa and Shin Sun-Hy. While they are both important Korean artists from the 20th century onwards, this will be the first major presentation in Los Angeles to highlight their work.

Read More

Paul Mpagi Sepuya: Dark Room

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, an artist who calls Los Angeles his home, is backed by many major galleries and represented worldwide. Born in San Bernardino, California, in 1982, Sepuya graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the New York University Tisch School of the Arts in 2004. He also received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California Los Angeles Department of Art in 2016.

Read More

Mark Tobey at Pace Gallery

Pace Gallery is exploring the work of American artist Mark Tobey (1890-1976) in a new exhibition with over 35 paintings and works on paper from major museum loans and private collections. This exhibit is the first comprehensive show of his work in New York in over twenty years, and reminds us of this artist who preferred the small scale to the large and who found meaning in mindfulness before it was in the zeitgeist.

Read More

Meleko Mokgosi’s Subversion of the Western Canon of Art

This fall Honor Fraser is presenting the final show in the series Democratic Intuition started by artist Meleko Mokgosi in 2013. Throughout the series the artist has taken traditional Western subject matter and techniques and put them through a filter to show the limitations of their methods in depicting the African body and culture. In this final exhibition still lifes are the chosen subject matter.

Read More

Murakami Meets Abloh in “America Too”

Takashi Murakami has never been one to feel constrained by the rules of the art world, and his latest collaborative effort at Gagosian Beverly Hills carries this theme of his oeuvre to new heights. Featuring works created in tandem with fashion icon  Virgil Abloh, the exhibition “America Too” sets its sights on - and succeeds at - challenging the concepts that define the modern American experience through art.

Read More

Takesada Matsutani: A Drop in Time

An almost opalescent blue form drips down the black canvas in this work by Takesada Matsutani (Japanese, b. 1937). Made from vinyl glue that is poured on the canvas then allowed to dry to create a film, Matsutani then uses his own breath to inflate the form and rupture the skin so that is evokes open wounds reminding us of drops of blood.

Read More

Buying into Tony Berlant

Tony Berlant’s art is all about the detail. His compositions can be read from across the room, but it is in close proximity that their brilliance truly comes into view. The incredibly intricacy of each composition comes together in his latest exhibition, “Tony Berlant: Fast Forward” at Los Angeles’ Kohn Gallery.

Read More

The Many Facets of Zeng Fanzhi

This fall Hauser & Wirth is presenting a new show of Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi called In the Studio. Known for working on several series at the same time, the gallery was inspired by his simultaneous working method and brings this technique to how they are presenting this show by exhibiting his work at the same time across three locations – London, Zurich, and Hong Kong.

Read More

Channa Horwitz: The Underlying Structure of Things

In 2005 the LA-based artist Channa Horwitz declared that “if chance plays out long enough it will become structure.” She drew in order to find structure in the chaotic world that surrounded her. Logic lead the way, and she created a system of drafting compositions not knowing what would result on the pag.

Read More

Take Two from Take Two: L’Atlas versus Miljan Suknoviç

If success in art means a balance of tensions, nowhere was this push-pull more aptly illustrated than in the recent, “Take Two” exhibition at New York’s Catherine Ahnell Gallery. The four rising international artists featured in the showcase were captivating, however a particularly compelling contrast emerged between two of these contributing artists, L’Atlas and Miljan Suknoviç, whose diametrically opposed artistic styles offered a modern-day dialogue on the role of form and abstraction in art.

Read More

Privacy Preference Center