Manifesto Now!: Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics

Manifesto Now!: Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics


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Manifesto Now!: Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics by Laura Cull

Manifesto Now! maps the current rebirth of the manifesto as it appears at the crossroads of philosophy, performance, and politics. While the manifesto has been central to histories of modernity and Modernism, the editors contend that its contemporary resurgence demands a renewed interrogation of its form, its content, and the uses. Featuring contributions from trailblazing artists, scholars, and activists currently working in the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Norway, this volume will be indispensible to scholars across the disciplines. Filled with examples of manifestos and critical thinking about manifestos, it contains a wide variety of critical methodologies that students can analyze, deconstruct, and emulate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783200054
Publisher: Intellect, Limited
Publication date: 10/15/2013
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Laura Cull is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies and Director of Postgraduate Research for the School of Arts at the University of Surrey, UK. Will Daddario is Assistant Professor in the School of Theatre and Dance at Illinois State University.

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Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics

By Laura Cull, Will Daddario

Intellect Ltd

Copyright © 2013 Intellect Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78320-005-4


Analogue 0

Manifesto Now! (Again!)

Laura Cull and Will Daddario


Manifesto Now! What does this mean? The syntax suggests at least two readings. First, it might express an exuberant introduction to the current status of manifestos. Where does the manifesto emerge in the present moment? Does its form still contain the power to enrage and incite like it did, for example, for communists in the mid-nineteenth century or feminists in the twentieth? In terms of the first question, this collection of essays argues that the contemporary manifesto surfaces where performance, philosophy, and politics collide. To be more specific, the argument on the table is that, in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the manifesto functions as a performance score through which philosophical concepts express themselves through embodied participation in a field of political conditions. The manifesto now, i.e., in the present moment, demands more than literary or rhetorical analysis for its irreducible complexity to reveal itself. It requires that we take time to embody the subject positions conjured through its performativity and, through so doing, that we participate in a political discussion as in '"a shaking," from discussus, pp. of discussus "strike asunder, break up," from dis- "apart" ... + discussus "to shake"' (Etymonline 2012). In terms of the second question, as to the potency of the manifesto today, you will have to decide. That is, and perhaps this has always been the case, the efficacy of the manifesto lies not only within its text or performative effects/affects but extends from the actions of those who take up the manifesto's provocations.

This leads to the second possible reading of the phrase: 'Manifesto Now!' as a direct command. What precisely are we to do? What are the terms of the engagement? With whom are we to communicate as we figure these things out? None of this is clear, at least not rationally speaking. Instead, the command resonates within the affective register and causes us to itch. We feel irritated about something, but we know not what. To remedy the itch, to find the discussion into which we must plug ourselves, or to execute a specific action, we must take stock of the manifestos that populate the fields of performance, philosophy, and politics. This collection of essays provides such a sampling and presents them here as multiple lines of sight onto battles (some conceptual and some more physically belligerent) waged on numerous fronts, from academia to national borderlands, from arts activism to animal rights. Maybe a plan of action awaits you in the pages ahead?

Perhaps there exists one more reading of 'Manifesto Now!', one that requires a brief historical contextualization. That is, the urgency of the word 'now' has, for quite a long time, testified to the temporal dimension unique to the manifesto. Janet Lyon has summed up the notion of manifesto time succinctly in her essay 'Feminist Futural – Five Kinds of Time', where she writes that

Manifestos typically recalibrate dominant accounts of history in order to foreground a marginalized group's unacknowledged history of struggle and to stage the present moment, the urgent 'now', as the inevitable, necessary moment of action – the moment that marks the commencement of the group's radically new, self-determining future.

(Lyon 2007, p.148)

In other words, what we might expect from a manifesto now is the same thing that scholars have come to expect from manifestos over the last hundred years: a forceful call for a specific group of people to make an alternate future present in the time and space of the now. Thus, while we would like to stake out some original scholarly terrain with our selected title, we should point out that we are really positing discussus again.

This repetition leads back into the milieu of contestations made intelligible by manifestos in the Modernist era but also forward into a terrain that remains unmapped. Again, Lyon's essay and her parsing of the five kinds of time present in the 'Because' manifesto, adapted from the original text of Joyce Stevens by the Bhopali women of New Delhi, helps to make this point clear. In addition to the 'manifesto time' described above, Lyon offers four other kinds of time folded into the utopian polemics so familiar to the manifesto genre: non-creative time, nineteenth-century utopian time, twentieth-century utopian time, and a Bergsonian-Deleuzian time of change.

Non-creative time dissuades political action by fabricating an unavoidable future from the hegemony of dominant discourses in the present moment. For Lyon, the 'Because' manifesto conjures an unavoidable future in which women continue to suffer under the ideology of patriarchal domination:

BECAUSE our work is never done & under or un-paid or boring or repetitious
and we're the first to get the sack
and what we look like is more important than what we do
and if we get raped it's our fault
and if we get bashed we must have provoked it
and if we raise our voices we're nagging bitches (cit. Lyon 2007, p.145)

In these lines, the repetition of 'and's would seem to point toward a repetition of the same without hope of any alternatives. Upon closer inspection, however, this repetition does not forecast any unavoidable future. Exemplary as a manifesto in this respect, the rhetorical conjuration serves to unmask the pretention of any teleological time that would march us into a future of sameness, a future in which women continue to get fired first, to be appraised based on their looks, and to get blamed for being raped. Far from embodying non-creative time, the manifesto reveals non-creative time as precisely the mode of time against which we must fight.

The next two temporal modalities constitute what Lyon refers to as the bicameral nature of utopian time. Lyon explains how 'Nineteenth-century utopian time envisions, in scientific detail, an actual future, and must in doing so rely upon a Comtean positivism that regards natural law as omnipotent and essentially teleological' (2007, p. 148). This species of utopianism, one guided by the exigencies of natural law, 'dictates the plans and guides the prediction for social perfection' (ibid.). As was the case with non-creative time, the manifesto works to fight against nineteenth-century utopian idealism and to give visibility to this machinery of natural law, which, far from leading toward freedom or liberation, becomes the very framework we should set about deconstructing. In the twentieth century, by distinction, the manifesto advocates for and expresses another kind of utopian time, one that 'privileges a present event that is suddenly seen, in the moment of its unfolding, as the unanticipated fulfillment or enunciation of revolutionary promise' (ibid.). The shift appears in the 'Because' manifesto as a move from the future imperative mood to the present participle, from 'we will act' to 'we are acting'. For Lyon, this causes present and future to collapse, and 'signals an ecstatic disruption, or interruption, or irruption, a "truth-event," to use Badiou's term, a portal to Lenin's revolution. We might align this ecstatic disruption with the "now" of manifesto time ...' (ibid.).

The final mode of time, a Bergsonian-Deleuzian 'time of change', appears for Lyon in the final line of the 'Because' manifesto, where, after that long string of 'and's, the text culminates in a collective articulation:

and if we want to get married we're out to trap a man
and if we don't we're unnatural
and BECAUSE we still can't get an adequate safe
contraceptive but men can walk on the moon
and if we can't cope or don't want a pregnancy
we're made to feel guilty about abortion
and for lots and lots of other reasons
we are part of the women's liberation movement (cit. Lyon 2007, p. 146)

'[I]n the context of this manifesto', writes Lyon, "'the women's liberation movement" stands for a temporality beyond the logic of patriarchy, beyond the causality of "natural law", beyond the loaded dice of history, beyond an intractable, predictable present governed, for women, by a politics of negative characterology'. Bergson describes this temporality as one in which the 'future overflows its present'. Specifically, where Lyon is concerned, the future overflows the present in the line 'we are part of the women's liberation movement.' The line marks a textual change in the polysyndeton of the previous several lines, but it also evokes a more profound social change by establishing a specific collective subjectivity – the women's liberation movement – capable of creating a future without patriarchal normativity.

This brief excursion through the 'Because we are women' manifesto and Lyon's theoretical parsing of the manifesto's five kinds of time illustrates how the manifesto has already surfaced at the crossroads of performance, philosophy, and politics. For Lyon, the time of change comes when individuals occupy the collective subject position of the women's liberation movement and begin to act as if the time of change is already upon us. Lyon's invocation of Badiou's truth-event resonates profoundly. Naming the statement – 'we are the women's liberation movement' – as an event, allows us to become subjects of this movement and challenges us to test our fidelity to the event of women's liberation in our daily thoughts and actions. More than an ethical commitment, acting as faithful subjects to this movement opens a viewpoint onto the political field of feminism. This is not to say that philosophy and politics collapse into each other but, rather, that the philosophical implications of the 'Because' manifesto make the field of political obstacles visible.


What is a manifesto anyway? A number of scholars have already proposed criteria for how we might recognize the specificity of the manifesto genre, based on both form and function. Janet Lyon, for instance, argues that the manifesto is defined by 'a stridency of tone' in relation to 'the passional state (frustration, disappointment, aggressive resolve) that precedes or engenders the text' (Lyon 1999); whilst Mary Ann Caws proposes that the manifesto is 'an act of discussus, going past what is thought of as proper, sane and literary. Its outreach demands an extravagant self- assurance. At its peak of performance, its form creates its meaning' (Caws 2001, p. xx). In turn, though, whereas Caws goes on to insist that the manifesto is 'crafted to convince and to convert' (Caws 2001, p. xix), Melissa Gronlund proposes that the manifesto differs from 'the essay, advertisement or political speech' in seeking not to persuade but to accomplish goals on behalf of an already-persuaded 'we' (Gronlund 2009, p. 13). That is, she suggests, the manifesto has a complex relationship to temporality insofar as it constitutes and creates a future that 'is already there' in the act of voicing its prior existence. The manifesto, she argues, is defined by its oscillation between deixis and performativity, between pointing at something that is already there and calling something that is not yet there into being (ibid.).

Similarly Janet Lyon suggests that 'the manifesto addresses and at the same time elicits an entity called the People' (Lyon 1999, p. 2). In turn, in her more recent writing Lyon makes explicit links between performativity and affect as what she calls 'a pre-conscious, pre-emotional grammar of the body':

Manifestoes aim to create the 'we' to whom they speak, and while many accomplish this through the fashioning of shared political identities, many also (and often at the same time) do so through the projection of affect. To project affect is to offer an intense point of connection on a non- or pre-rational level; to do so via a manifesto ... is to gather an audience through a literal bodying forth of grievances.

(Lyon 1999, p. 146)

Affect, Lyon suggests, is also a crucial part of the manifesto's contagion. The affective performativity of the manifesto is a feature that Deleuze extends to his articulation of the work of art, framing all forms of art – from cinema and theatre to painting, literature and music – as performative gestures that do not represent an existing people or audience, but call forth a people to come: arguably, that is, as forms of manifesto. Artists no longer invoke the people as an already- constituted entity, Deleuze claims; and yet, 'There is no work of art that does not appeal to a people who do not yet exist' (Deleuze in Kaufman and Heller 1998, p. 19). Or, to be more precise, we could say that it is not that the people in question discussus existence so much as they exist differently – exist discussus difference or becoming, in ways that tend to be conceived as deviation or derivation in relation to the norms or standards imposed by what Deleuze calls 'majority rule'. As Deleuze proposes in his aptly named text 'One Manifesto Less', the theatre might operate as one way to call forth a minority consciousness, to summon a community based on the principle of becoming rather than identity, self-difference rather than consensus (Deleuze 1997, p. 254). Whether as text or performance, the objective of the manifesto here is not to achieve 'majority status' for the minor people to come so much as to solicit universal participation in the process of becoming-minor, albeit that this process must be figured differently in each specific instance.

And we are not alone in having attuned to the proliferation of works called manifestos over the last decade. Curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist marketed his own 2008 Manifesto Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery with his own manifesto claiming that: 'At this moment, there is a reconnection to the manifesto as a document of poetic and political intent. This is a declaration of artistic will and new-found optimism' (Obrist 2009, n.p.). More cautiously, for his part, Martin Puchner notes that '[n]ow, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is a widespread perception that the manifesto is outdated. And yet, manifestos are being written with impunity' (Puchner 2007, p. 182). That is, there has been a resurgence of the production of things called 'manifestos', and yet, at the same time, this sense that there is something 'wrong' – temporally, rhetorically, politically – about the manifesto in relation to the contemporary context has also been frequently reiterated. Tom McCarthy, for instance, describes the manifesto as 'a defunct format' and an 'anachronistic' but nevertheless compelling rhetorical device (in Obrist 2010, n.p.). Natalie Alvarez and Jenn Stephenson claim that '[i]n the current post-manifesto era – gone is the Golden Age of the Manifesto – we are sadder and wiser, more circumspect and more divided'. Ours, they say, is a time of 'doubt and worry' that naturally makes us less comfortable with the 'authoritative swagger' of the manifesto (Alvarez and Stephenson 2012, p. 5). For contemporary practitioners, the manifesto might seem to have a number of problematic traits: not least, its masculinism, its commitment to a binary logic (of 'us' and 'them'), its apparently doomed project to predict the nature of an unpredictable future and its tendency to dictate rather than discuss, operating as what Stephen Willats calls a 'one-way radio' (Gronlund 2009, p. 14). Conventionally, manifestos are associated with the 'aggressive self-confident assertion of truths' (Alvarez and Stephenson 2012, p. 5); whilst their 'familiar tropes' include the remonstrations of '"Long live -!" and "Down with -!"' (Danchev 2011), ideally written in capital letters and punctuated liberally with exclamation marks.

But clearly, manifestos do not have to conform to these historically-constituted expectations; or again, one way that the manifesto has found a place in contemporary practices is in the form of self-reflexive, though not necessarily ironic or parodic manifestos, in which the historical form of the manifesto is taken up as a means to question the nature and legitimacy of the manifesto itself. For instance, in my own collaborative project 'Diluted Manifesto', written with performance makers Matthew Goulish and Lin Hixson (who has also written a manifesto for this volume), we took as one of our starting points Roland Barthes' notion of 'the Neutral' and recreated the manifesto as a form through which to explore logics of contradiction and inclusive disjunction, rather than opposition. As Goulish writes: 'A manifesto makes apparent my beliefs. My beliefs hold that for each aesthetic position strongly held another springs up in equally strong contradiction. In strong contradiction lies the beauty, provided I believe in both, and leave them unresolved and placed in parallel relation' (Cull, Goulish and Hixson 2013, n.p.). We also had in mind Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself' and its invocation of the differential nature of the authorial self: discussus.


Excerpted from Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics by Laura Cull, Will Daddario. Copyright © 2013 Intellect Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Intellect Ltd.
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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

Analogue 0

Manifesto Now! (Again!)

Laura Cull and Will Daddario

Analogue 1

Absent Futures: The Ironic Manifesto in an Age of Austerity

Michael Shane Boyle

Duration and Space: The New Manifesto of Occupy Wall Street

Maurya Wickstrom and Stephanie Vella

Analogue 2

Standing By Their Words: The Manifestos of the Freee Art Collective

Ken Wilder

Twenty-First-Century Political Art: The Freee Manifesto for Art & Twenty-First-Century Socialism

The Freee art collective

Analogue 3

Manifesting A Star: An Essay in Two Directions

Lin Hixon

The Sense of the Manifest/o

Branislav Jakovljevic

Analogue 4

What Is the University For? A Story from the Dreamtime of a Possible Future

Stuart McLean

Manifesto for Reification

Mary Overlie

Analogue 5

[One Less] Manifesto for a Theatre of Immanence

Laura Cull

Sustenance: A Play for All Trans [ ] Borders

Electronic Disturbance Theatre and b.a.n.g. lab (Ricardo Dominguez, Brett Stalbaum, Micha Cárdenas, Amy Sara Carroll, and Elle Mehrmand)

Analogue 6

Manifesting the Animal: Human-Animal Interactions in Contemporary Performance

Lourdes Orozco

Provisional Absolutes: The Second Manifesto for Generalized Anthropomorphism

Esa Kirkkopelto

Notes on Contributors


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