The Anti-Manifesto of all Manifestos – In 2017, 'Manifesto' is not only Julian Rosefeldt’s biggest exhibition series in Munich, Paris or Stuttgart; it is also a film at the Sundance Festival.

It is the manifesto of all manifestos, says Julian Rosefeldt. It is a super-manifesto, writes professor Burcu Dogramaci in the catalogue of the show. The Guardian called it a verbal Lorem Ipsum.

It is the fuse of a bottle rocket lit in the darkness; it is a homeless man wandering around the ruins of an abandoned factory complex; it is a broker on a huge trading floor full of computers; it is a CEO in her Villa presenting a new concept to the board of directors; it is a drunken tattooed guest at a backstage party; it is a scientist in a white protective suit working in a high-tech lab; it is someone mourning a close friend at a funeral; it is a puppeteer crafting the likeness of her own head onto a puppet; it is a mother saying grace before dinner; it is a Russian-accented choreographer instructing dancers; it is a news reporter in a TV studio; it is a school teacher speaking to her class in primary school---- and all those people are Cate Blanchett.

When you enter the darkened rooms of the Villa Stuck, you may initially feel as if you're on an LSD trip. Projections stream at you from all directions. There is an amalgam of one beautiful voice, with the color of different moods. But what ties it all together?

To fully appreciate the phenomena Rosefeldt presents by putting Cate Blanchett in twelve roles requires at least two hours. For Manifesto is a multi-channel film installation that explodes as a massive collage of quotations of passionate statements made by male artists for their time and the art movements they belonged, performed by one single woman.

Rosefeldt’s re-enactment of selected manifestos celebrates the universality of their words, questioning at the same time the purpose of these convictions. Did they ever change the world, or were they captives of the daily grind? Do manifestoes survive the passage of time?

Rosefeldt’s answer is no. For him, the role of the artist within society remains an obsolete joke. Rosefeldt insists in the artists complete absence in his film. Where are they?

After the revolution, who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning? (George Maciunas, 1963)

There are poster all over the city of Munich that spread loose sentences like this one. Rosefeldt picked them up for his own collage of relevant ideas within 20th century art history. Yet the randomness of Rosefeldt’s potpourri wants to avoid art history itself. Rosefeldt himself is the main frame of references for his visually opulent and almost saintly mannered way of staging interpretation of things, homages to the past and perfectionist replicas of common situations.

Manifesto was shown as an art installation at Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin, Sprengel Museum Hannover and is currently on view at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Now it finally arrived to Rosefeldt’s hometown. After being shown at the Sundance Festival this January, it will also be featured as a full length film in April during the third edition of Kino der Kunst, a festival of artists’ films in Munich.

The compelling multi-screen installation spreads all over the main exhibition floors of Villa Stuck in a more or less similar display as in other museums. Yet the exhibition in Munich, co-curated with the Goetz Collection, seems accommodatingly quieter than in its first view during the Berlinale 2016. The separation of the chapters in different floors is still not the ideal way of reorganizing what is supposed to be experienced in the Museum, but Rosefeldt is someone that likes to adapt and re-adapt to any kind of situation. As kaleidoscopic as it is, Manifesto gives the impression that it wants to please us all.

There are twelve characters and twelve contradictions in Rosefeldt's cinematographic cosmos. Contradictions are not only to find in the cross-over between the museological installation and the feature film, but in the content itself. The contradicting part is the most agitating one of Manifesto's enchantment, and as it barely leaves alternatives to react against the imposing product of innumerable details it turns to be, here are some loose comments on each chapter that forms the state of this critique:

1 Prologue

The introductory scene of hundred sparks out of focus melts brief sentences from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels with those of Tristan Tzara and Philippe Soupault. The quotes are the oldest of this compendium, what reveals already a certain chronology to the whole Manifesto jumping course we are about to experience through the exhibition. Julian Rosefeldt is aware that only a reduced percentage of viewers will recognize the provenience of what they are listening to. This may look like as if Rosefeldt is not only appropriating but taking any meaning away from the gesture of the other artists. To that, he even refers to the ZERO performative manifesto of an explosion in the sixties. But this is not relevant wether for him nor for anyone to know. This is just a coincidence as many from which Manifesto can please itself from.

I am writing a manifesto because I have nothing to say
(Philippe Soupault, 1920)

2 Epilogue

This last chapter seems to reassure what you have seen at the beginning: Rosefeldt denies any kind of authenticity for the manifestos written before his time. Funny situation, that Cate Blanchett is explaining this to eight year old children before handing exam papers.

Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration our fuels your imagination / Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. (Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision, 1963)

3 Groups

Blanchett’s monologues only function as she dresses to a group: children, guests, a family, dancers, the world. But are they really reacting to the words? The bodies and situation seem to belong to another dimension, though.

Nothing is original. (Jim Jarmush, 2002)

4 Costumes

Due to the artificiality of the figures, Cate Blanchett could be Cindy Sherman’s body double. The only difference between both artists, is that Blanchett is rather being instrumentalized by Rosefeldt for his own purpose, laminating with her popularity the hard candy he is delivering to his sponsors.

The instrumentalization of the celebrity, combined with the mannerism for which Julian Rosefeldt is known for, retain a certain asymmetry between artist and actress. The concept of Manifesto could have succeeded as a carefully treated and meticulous reflection on the literary or historical value of manifestos. However, the hypnotic face of Cate Blanchett converts the entire subjective selection of documents in a flat and colorful pastiche of performable material, divorced from any kind of reference to their original purpose.

5 Cate Blanchett

Sure, who could resist to work with such a flawless personality? Like in every remake or artists biographical film, this is not a film about dada, futurism, conceptual art or Dogma 95. This is about her performing what Rosefeldt names the break of a taboo between fine arts, art theory and popular culture. In a conversation with Sarah Tutton and Justin Paton Rosefeldt agrees that in the scene he used a text by Sol LeWitt on Conceptual Art, Cate is the manifesto.

‚It becomes a piece of conceptual art in a way, right?‘, he adds.


6 Humour

Spontaneity and Perfectionism do rarely come along. Cate Blanchett is convincing in the most absurd situations, like telling kids that ‚nothing is original’ (Jim Jarmusch, 2004). It is hard though to find the fun while listening to the punk saying ‚To the electric chair with Chopin!‘. A background there is missing and here the words are only an atemporal ridicule interpretation.

7 Chapters

Like a pedagogical film on art history for dummies, ‚Manifesto‘ scenes have names with a metaphorical function: Situationism, Futurism, Architecture, Vorticism/Blue Rider/ Abstract Expressionism, Stridentism/Creationism, Suprematism/Constructivism, Dadaism, Surrealism/ Spatialism, Pop Art, Fluxus/ Merz/ Performance, Conceptual art / Minimalism, Film.

8 Language

Manifesto only works in English, because.. (see point 5)

9 Music

Nobody needs an orchestra to understand Dada.

10 Art history

Rosefeldt said in a conversation during the opening of the show at Villa Stuck with the curators Cornelia Göckel and Verena Hein, that what he aims to is the complete separation of the manifestos from their art historical baggage.

If so, that makes the chronological order of artistic movements a pretentious parody of themselves. But read them for yourself first. The catalogue of the project is an experience for itself, thus Cate Blanchett is there only a face near the raw collages of texts and not their voice.

I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms (Lebbeus Woods, Manifesto, 1993)

11 Synchronicity

The moment where all screens synchronize and seem to create a unifying, yet chaotic mixture of everything Cate Blanchett is saying, is a sort of cacophony. This embodies the synthesis of Rosefeldt's parallels between sequences and meaning, ergo a hardly definable text. Everything reduces to the images.

12 Actuality

Texts aren’t relevant in a world driven by 140 character feeds, anyways.

‚All current art is fake‘ (Elaine Sturtevant, Mentale Strukturen in Bewegung, 1999)

That sentence takes our breath away, as Blanchett has the make-up dose of Kellyanne Conway. Sturtevant’s excerpt of her manifesto is being told on a TV-News -show! Fake news and fake art, happy together. This can be anything but what it says it is.