Artists’ Manifestos



Artists’ Manifestos


A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature. Manifestos relating to religious beliefs are generally referred to as creeds. Manifestos may also be life stance-related. A manifesto does not describe a specific exhibition to why you did this or that. Rather it states what you stand for; what you shall create. Creating is a process used to manifest your qualities and feelings. It is causing what you love and what matters to you to come into being. I recommend using Claes Oldenburg’s format for your first attempt. I did. Then rewrite it in your own format. If you would like, send it to me. I may make suggestions. And I may post it on this blog.


Your Manifesto, Your Culture

Seth Godin

“It’s so easy to string together a bunch of platitudes and call them a mission statement. But what happens if you actually have a specific mission, a culture in mind, a manifesto for your actions?

The essential choice is this: you have to describe (and live) the difficult choices. You have to figure out who you will disappoint or offend. Most of all, you have to be clear about what’s important and what you won’t or can’t do.

Here’s one that was published this week, by my friends at Acumen:

Acumen: It starts by standing with the poor, listening to voices unheard, and recognizing potential where others see despair.

It demands investing as a means, not an end, daring to go where markets have failed and aid has fallen short. It makes capital work for us, not control us.

It thrives on moral imagination: the humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be. It’s having the ambition to learn at the edge, the wisdom to admit failure, and the courage to start again.

It requires patience and kindness, resilience and grit: a hard-edged hope. It’s leadership that rejects complacency, breaks through bureaucracy, and challenges corruption. Doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Acumen: it’s the radical idea of creating hope in a cynical world. Changing the way the world tackles poverty and building a world based on dignity.

Starts, demands, thrives and requires. Four words that are not in the vocabulary of most organizations.

Starts, as in, “here’s where we are, where few others are.” Most politicians and corporate entities can’t imagine standing with the poor. Apart from them, sure. But with them?

Demands? Demands mean making hard choices about who your competition will be and what standards you’re willing to set and be held to.

Thrives, because your organization is only worth doing if it gets to the point where it will thrive, where you will be making a difference, not merely struggling or posturing.

And requires, because none of this comes easy.

David highlights a very different (but strikingly similar) document from HubSpot. The same dynamic is at work: no platitudes, merely a difficult to follow (but worth it) compass for how to move forward.

Both require the hubris of caring, of thinking big and being willing to fail if that’s what it takes to attempt the right thing.

It’s easy to write something like this (hey, even the TSA has one) but it’s incredibly difficult to live one, because it requires difficult choices and the willingness to own the outcome of your actions. If you’re going to permit loopholes, wiggle room and deniability, don’t even bother.”

Posted by Seth Godin on April 24, 2013


Manifesto of Futurism

Umberto Boccioni (1882 – 1916)



Dynamism of a Cyclist – Umberto Boccioni C. 1915


.1.      We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.  

2.      The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.

3.      Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.

4.      We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

5.      We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit

6.      The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.

7.      Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.

8.       We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.

9.       We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.

10.    We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.

11.    We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.

12.     It is in Italy that we are issuing this manifesto of ruinous and incendiary   violence, by which we today are founding Futurism, because we want to  deliver Italy from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries.

Italy has been too long the great second-hand market. We want to get rid of the innumerable museums which cover it with innumerable cemeteries.

Museums, cemeteries! Truly identical in their sinister juxtaposition of bodies that do not know each other. Public dormitories where you sleep side by side forever with beings you hate or do not know. Reciprocal ferocity of the painters and sculptors who murder each other in the same museum with blows of line and color. To make a visit once a year, as one goes to see the graves of our dead once a year, that we could allow! We can even imagine placing flowers once a year at the feet of the Gioconda! But to take our sadness, our fragile courage and our anxiety to the museum every day, that we cannot admit! Do you want to poison yourselves? Do you want to rot?

What can you find in an old picture except the painful contortions of the artist trying to break uncrossable barriers which obstruct the full expression of his dream?

To admire an old picture is to pour our sensibility into a funeral urn instead of casting it forward with violent spurts of creation and action. Do you want to waste the best part of your strength in a useless admiration of the past, from which you will emerge exhausted, diminished, trampled on?

Indeed daily visits to museums, libraries and academies (those cemeteries of wasted effort, calvaries of crucified dreams, registers of false starts!) is for artists what prolonged supervision by the parents is for intelligent young men, drunk with their own talent and ambition.

For the dying, for invalids and for prisoners it may be all right. It is, perhaps, some sort of balm for their wounds, the admirable past, at a moment when the future is denied them. But we will have none of it, we, the young, strong and living Futurists!

Let the good incendiaries with charred fingers come! Here they are! Heap up the fire to the shelves of the libraries! Divert the canals to flood the cellars of the museums! Let the glorious canvases swim ashore! Take the picks and hammers! Undermine the foundation of venerable towns!

The oldest among us are not yet thirty years old: we have therefore at least ten years to accomplish our task. When we are forty let younger and stronger men than we throw us in the waste paper basket like useless manuscripts! They will come against us from afar, leaping on the light cadence of their first poems, clutching the air with their predatory fingers and sniffing at the gates of the academies the good scent of our decaying spirits, already promised to the catacombs of the libraries.

But we shall not be there. They will find us at last one winter’s night in the depths of the country in a sad hangar echoing with the notes of the monotonous rain, crouched near our trembling aeroplanes, warming our hands at the wretched fire which our books of today will make when they flame gaily beneath the glittering flight of their pictures.

They will crowd around us, panting with anguish and disappointment, and exasperated by our proud indefatigable courage, will hurl themselves forward to kill us, with all the more hatred as their hearts will be drunk with love and admiration for us. And strong healthy Injustice will shine radiantly from their eyes. For art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice.

The oldest among us are not yet thirty, and yet we have already wasted treasures, treasures of strength, love, courage and keen will, hastily, deliriously, without thinking, with all our might, till we are out of breath.

Look at us! We are not out of breath, our hearts are not in the least tired. For they are nourished by fire, hatred and speed! Does this surprise you? it is because you do not even remember being alive! Standing on the world’s summit, we launch once more our challenge to the stars!

Your objections? All right! I know them! Of course! We know just what our beautiful false intelligence affirms: “We are only the sum and the prolongation of our ancestors,” it says. Perhaps! All right! What does it matter? But we will not listen! Take care not to repeat those infamous words! Instead, lift up your head!

Standing on the world’s summit we launch once again our insolent challenge to the stars!


Robert Motherwell

From his Manifesto


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Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic 108, 1967

  …My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in a maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let up or slow up…          

Robert Motherwell, 1915 – 1991, Abstract Expressionist. Writer  


Claes Oldenburg

Store Days, 1967


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7-UP was created out of cloth, plaster and enamel in 1961

the same year Oldenburg wrote his manifesto 

Claes Oldenburg


The following statement was written for the catalogue of Claes Oldenburg’s pivotal exhibition “Environments, Situations, Spaces” at the Martha Jackson Gallery (1961). It appears here in the definitive form in which it was published in Store Days (1967).   Oldenburg is 82 years old. He was 31 when he wrote this piece and it would be descriptive of his entire life’s work.  


I am for an art that is politcal-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.   I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of   having a starting point of zero.   I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.

I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.. . 

I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.  

I am for an artist who vanishes, turning up in a white cap painting signs or hallways.  I am for an art that comes out of the chimney like black hair and scatters in the sky. I am for an art that spills out of an old man’s purse when he is bounced off a passing fender. I am for the art out of a doggy’s mouth, falling five stories from the roof.   I am for an art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapper.             

I am for an art that joggles like everyone’s knees, when the bus reverses an excavation. I am for an art that is smoked, like a cigarette, smells, like a pair of shoes. I am for an art that flaps like a flag, or helps blow noses, like a handkerchief.

I am for an art that is put on and taken off, like pants, which develops holes, like socks, which is eaten, like a piece of pie, or abandoned with great contempt, like a piece of shit.

I am for an art covered with bandages. I am for art that limps and rolls and runs and jumps. I am for an art that that comes in a can or washes up on the shore. I am for an art that grunts like a wrestler. I am for an art that sheds hair. I am for an art you can sit on.

I am for an art you can pick your nose with or stub your toes on. I am from an art of the pocket, from deep channels of the ear, from the edge of a knife, from the corners of the mouth, stuck in the eye or worn on the wrist. I am for an art under the skirts, and the art of pinching cockroaches.  I am for the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind man’s stick.

I am for the art that grows in a pot, that comes down out of the sky at night, like lightning, that hides in the clouds and growls.

I am for an art that is turned on and off with a switch. I am for an art that unfolds like a map, that you can squeeze, like your sweeties arm, or kiss, like a pet dog. Which expands and squeeks like an accordion, which you can spill your dinner on, like an old tablecloth.

I am for an art you can hammer with, stitch with, paste with, file with. I am for an art that helps old ladies across the street. I am for the art of the washing machine.

I am for an art of the government check. I am for an art of last wars raincoat. I am for an art that comes up in fogs from sewer holes in winter. I am for the art that splits when you step on a frozen puddle. I am for the worms’ art inside an apple. I am for the art of sweat that develops between crossed legs. 

I am for the art of neck-hair and caked tea-cups, for art between the tines of restaurant forks, for the odor of boiling dishwater. I am for the art of sailing on Sunday, and for the art of red and white gasoline pumps. I am for the art of bright blue factory columns and blinking biscuit signs. I am for the art of cheap plaster and enamel.

I am for the art of worn marble and smashed slate. I am for the art of rolling cobblestones and sliding sand. I am for the art of slag and black coal.

I am for the art of dead birds. I am for the art of scratching in the asphalt, daubing at the walls. I am for the art of bending and kicking metal and breaking glass, and pulling at things to make them fall down. I am for the art of punching and skinned knees and sat-on bananas.

I am for the art of kid’s smells. I am for the art of mama-babble. I am for the art of bar-babble, tooth-picking, beer drinking, egg-salting, in-sulting. I am for the art of falling of a barstool.

I am for the art of underwear and the art of taxicabs. I am for the art of ice cream cones dropped on concrete. I am for the majestic art of dog turds, rising like cathedrals. I am for the blinking arts, lighting up the night. I am for art falling, splashing, jumping, going on and off. I am for the art of fat truck tires and black eyes.

I am for Kool-art, 7up-art, Pepsi-art, Sunshine-art, 39 cents art, 15 cents art, menthol art, L&M art, Ex-Lax art, Rx art, 9.99 art, Now art,  New art, How art, Fire sale art, Last-Chance art, Only art, Diamond art, Tomorrow art, Franks art, Ducks art, Meat-o-rama art.

I am for the art of bread wet by rain. I am for the rats’ dance between the floors. I am for the art of flies walking on a slick pear in the electric light. I am for the art of soggy onions and firm green shoots. I am for the art of clicking between the nuts when the roaches come and go. I am for the brown sad art of rotting apples. 

I am for the art of meows and clatter of cats and for the art of their dumb electric eyes. I am for the white art of refrigerators and their muscular openings and closings. I am for the art of rust and mold. I am for the art of hearts, funeral hearts or sweetheart hearts full of nougat.

I am for the art of worn meat hooks and single barrels of red, white, blue and yellow meat. I am for the art of things lost or thrown away, coming home from school. I am for the art of cock-and-ball trees and flying cows and the noise of rectangles and squares. I am for the art of crayons and weak grey pencil lead, and grainy wash and sticky oil paint, and the art of windshield wipers and the art of the finger on a cold window, on dusty steel or in the bubbles on the side of the bathtub.

I am for the art of teddy-bears and guns and decapitated rabbits, exploded umbrellas, raped beds, chairs with their brown bones broken, burning a tree, firecracker ends, chicken bones, pigeon bones and boxes with men sleeping in them. I am for the art of slightly rotten funeral flowers, hung bloody rabbits, and wrinkly yellow chickens, bass drums & tambourines and plastic phonographs.

I am for the art of abandoned boxes, tied like pharaohs. I am for the art of water tanks and speeding clouds and flapping shades. I am for the art of U.S. inspected art, Grade-A art, Regular price art, Yellow ripe art, Extra Fancy art, Ready-to-eat art, Best-for-less art, Ready-to-cook art, Fully cleaned art, Spend less art, Eat better art, Ham art, Pork art, chicken art, tomato art, turkey art, apple art, cake and cookie art…  


Ian Summers’ Manifesto

In the manner of Claes Oldenburg


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Conjured Face #153,  2013


I am for an art of memories that are chips and fragments, but not nostalgic. Life lived gathering experiences and images that are searching for meaning and connections.

Faces conjured forming associations with people living and dead, with persons who may never have lived anywhere but in my mind. Conjured Faces. I am for faces buried for over fifty years or more guessing how I knew them. Faces haunt me in my sleep and when I am awake.   I am for seas of people on the streets of New York. I am for remembering everyone I have ever met. I am for the rags and bones of my childhood – encountering legends and myths from the moment I broke my first Crayola to my last drip of acrylic paint splashing and peeling it from my toenails. I am for not knowing where I am going until the painting wheezes and whines until I alter the course.   I am for art on tar paper that bleeds and bubbles and smells and ghosts and is unpredictable as life itself.   I am for projects that respond to life like when I spent three months – mesmerized in front of a television set watching the aftermath of 9/11. Faces flashed for nanoseconds. I tried to paint every one of them. Gestures. Expressions. Pundits. Soldiers. Politicians. First Responders. Anyone including actors making random appearances on disconnected television commercials. Working faster. Faster. At record speed. Over one thousand monotypes made from thousands of plates none bigger than an index card congregating making triptychs nine feet wide.   Faces. More Faces. Conjured faces who do not make themselves known to me until they appear in a matter of moments on my iPad and painted with my fingers.   I am for change ups. Moving from faces to what I see out my window and on the streets of Easton. Downtown. West Ward. Neighborhoods. The beat of the city. Is this new work a response or a reaction?  


The Holstee Manifesto

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