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Early Manifestos

In essence, a manifesto belongs to hte larger category of pamphlets, and has its origin both in the more elitarian, political and scientific tract and the more social flyers and leaflets, until the 20th century. Think of the Communist Manifesto (Marx & Engels, 1848), which was definitely not sung like the wandering and travelling authors of Les Feuilles Volantes. Manifestos gradually gained more power in the social revolutions from the 1840s on, and were serving an emancipatory purpose. Soon the first workers' unions would be formed and then all the political parties followed. A manifesto and pamphlet was useful mobilizing masses, calling for action, or making statements understood. But somehow the artistic power remained in place if we think of the infamous “L'Internationale”. It could have been the story of a Feuille Volante.

Of course we all know the hymn, but the first time that for me the beauty of the composition came out, was when I had to rehearse and play it on trumpet, for supporting the steel factory workers on strike in Ghent, an early morning in spring, beginning of the 1980s. Delving in its history, the origin of that song is surprising. The original text was a poem by Eugène Pottier, who took part in the Commune de Paris (1870-71). The text reflected the ideals of the uprising, in which the population of a city - Paris - for the first time in Western history took power in its own hands, denouncing the German occupier as well as refusing the return of the French king. They installed a communal counsel, implementing social innovations like independent decisions by the city Quartiers, and some measures till today still not realized, like gender equality (with equality of pay!!!), and artists - like Gustave Courbet - deciding on cultural matters, … During the so called “La Semaine Sanglante”, from 21 to 28 May 1871, the French army crushed the insurrection and killed 30,000 citizens. In 1888 Pierre Degeyter, born in Ghent as well - I can show you his somewhat hidden statue there in the shadow if the Museum for Industry - put Pottier's poem to music for his worker's choir in Lille. It became an instant hit, thanks also to its leaflet distribution across France and abroad. By 1922 it was the common anthem of various anarchist, communist, socialist, democratic socialist, and social democratic movements, who were all protesting and furious when Stalin declared it the Soviet Union's national anthem (1922-44). It may be noted that in most versions the texts have changed throughout its 150 years, leaving out stanzas and writing new ones, and like the Russian version changing the future tense into the present. Till today new versions keep emerging, for instance correcting gender, while left and right all alike seem to appropriate it for their own purposes. The last copyright claim in France happened in 2014, but now both music and lyrics seem to be in public domain. Sometimes I still play it, and it is interesting how smooth and easy the original has been written by Pierre Degeyter. In 2014 I was harassed in Praha after playing a multilinguistic version, because some people in the audience thought my computer was performing a Soviet song.

What Art Manifestos?

But let's go back to the early 20th century, now 100 years ago. Suddenly there was Futurism, and it started with a bang, or rather: a Manifesto by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1909). Maybe a bang too since near the end he describes a car crash. Other manifestos would follow, maybe the most important one was L'arte dei Rumori or The Art Of Noises, by Luigi Russolo (1913) in which he describes the new aesthetics of speed, noise, electronics and city soundscapes. Earlier there had been already the Manifesto of Futurist Musicians written by Francesco Balilla Pratella (1910), and what we remember is that he warns musicians to abstain from participating in any competition. So we never did till now. Then the constructivists would follow, dada and surrealism, etc.. till today. But never got the Manifesto so radical, innovating, wild as the ones the futurists wrote. It is important to understand the media at that time, and the distribution was now secured by widely read newspapers, so no need to print leaflets and flyers anymore. But then again, not the masses would embrace the new arts. Gradually manifestos would appear in specialized publications, and the target audience were the secluded art world.

Nowadays you can find themn collected in printed anthologies, and internet sites. Overviews that show how important these manifestos have been. But who today has read or even heard of the Art Strike Papers from Stewart Home (1990-93)? see:

And can Abolish the Family:A Manifesto for Care and Liberation by Sophie Lewis be called an art or social manifesto? Or the stylistically and also content wise inspiring Experiments in imagining otherwise by Lola Olufemi? Maybe it points to artists who are not only into fiction today, and are different than the new classification of multidisciplinarity as science-art, leaving out social, political, ecological, gender and any other dimensions? Oh, maybe it is good to leave it all on the edge of confusion and ignorance. Otherwise the purpose of a manifesto will certainly miss its purpose…

What is a manifesto? (ChatGPT)

A manifesto is a public declaration of principles, intentions, or policies issued by an individual, group, or organization. It is often a written statement that outlines a set of beliefs, goals, or objectives. Manifestos are typically created to advocate for a particular ideology, movement, or cause, and they are meant to inspire and rally support from others who share similar views.

Manifestos can take various forms, including political manifestos, artistic manifestos, and philosophical manifestos. Here are a few examples:

  • Political Manifesto: A political manifesto is a document that outlines the beliefs, goals, and policies of a political party or movement. It often serves as a platform for political candidates or parties during elections.
  • Artistic Manifesto: Artists and artistic movements sometimes create manifestos to express their artistic philosophy and intentions. These manifestos may outline the principles that guide their creative work and challenge established norms.
  • Philosophical Manifesto: Philosophical manifestos articulate a set of beliefs or principles related to philosophy or a specific philosophical movement. They may address fundamental questions about existence, ethics, or society.
  • Technology Manifesto: In the context of technology and innovation, manifestos can outline the guiding principles, values, and goals of a particular technological movement or community.

Manifestos are often bold and assertive in their language, aiming to make a clear and persuasive statement about the author's or group's convictions. They are a way for individuals or groups to declare their stance on various issues and to inspire others to join or support their cause.

What is a manifesto? (wikipedia)

A manifesto is a written declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party, or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political, social or artistic in nature, sometimes revolutionary, but may present an individual's life stance. Manifestos relating to religious belief are generally referred to as creeds or confessions of faith.

Wikipedia has a general description:, and a specific art manifesto entry:

In the latter, the first 3 manifestos are:

  • Realist Manifesto 1855 by Gustave Courbet
  • Symbolist Manifesto 1886 by Jean Moréas
  • Futurist Manifesto 1909, 1914 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

The latest one according to Wikipedia should be:

  • The New Manifesto of Arts 2020 by Menotti Lerro (about empathy in the arts)
manifestos20.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/11 17:46 by givanbela