Julie McGee, academic (USA)


julieHonestly I have not thought deeply about "manifestoes" for some time now. Given where I am now in my thinking and work, I have to ask whether the word manifesto is not culturally specific to hegemonic histories and epitemes. When I taught the history of modern architecture my required and favorite texts were edited volumes of 20th century manifestoes written by artists, architects, and others. They are important documents expressive of seminal ideals in the work and actions of those who subscribed to them. At times the manifesto functions as key to aesthetic production - a tangible component not necessarily evident in the forms to those outside the program or theory (as manifestoes are sometimes called.) Manifestoes can extend ideas that are not readily contained in aesthetic productions -- reading the Futurist Manifesto adds to our understanding of modernist art and culture, especially in Italy in the early 20th century but elsewhere as well. The value of manifestoes in my mind is in the added contextualization and documentation of an era for various collectives. Manifestoes can also become mechanisms for action - social & political platforms - or the dissemination of important concepts, and "texts" to argue against as well. When I taught modernism, I did at times ask students to consider the role of manifestoes and to write their own manifestoes. It requires them to commit to something, to defend it, to realize what such a commitment can entail. I am not sure I have ever imagined an individual manifesto -- can there really be such and would we really call it a manifesto if it pertained to only one person? I know English language usage allows for this - an individual manifesto - a declaration by a single individual. I guess I have found them more powerful when they are related to a collective. To this end, I don' t have a personal manifesto. Probably the closest I would come to a collective manifesto would be my political party alignment when I register to vote or favor a specific party platform even when I do not like all the components of individuals who comprise such. Others might find that my work, teaching or actions are grounded in certain theories or beliefs - but to say I have or work from a manifesto would be misleading. I think manifestoes are valuable but I also recognize in myself the propensity to refuse to commit to theories that may be circumscribed by ways of seeing that are culturally and historically limiting -- that is to say we cannot know what we do not know, but that which we do not know is still always present and often manifestoes do not leave room for such inconsistencies of knowing.