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A Collection of Modern Manifestoes

Page history last edited by Omer 8 years, 10 months ago


Excerpt from The Off-Modern Condition, by Svetlana Boym

At the end of the past century various thinkers mourned or celebrated the “ends” of history and of art, of the book and of humanity as we knew it. While different “posts” succeeded one another like ephemeral post-it notes in the overdue book of life, many premodern myths took hold of the intellectual and spiritual territory.  


Instead of fast-changing prepositions—“post,” “anti,” “neo,”  “trans,” and “sub”—that suggest an implacable movement forward, against or beyond, andtry desperately to be “in,” I propose to go off: “Off” as in “off quilter,” off Broadway, “off the path,” or “way off,” off-brand, off the wall and occasionally  “off-color.” “Off-modern” is a detour into the unexplored potentials of the modern project. It recovers unforeseen pasts and ventures into the side-alleys of modern history at the margins of error of major philosophical, economic and technological narratives of modernization and progress. Off-modern reflection involves exploration of the side alleys and lateral potentialities of the project of critical modernity. In other words, it opens into the “modernity of what if” rather than simply modernization as it is. (Critic and writer Victor Shklovsky proposes the figure of the knight’s move in chess that follows “the tortured road of the brave,” preferring it to the master-slave dialectics of “dutiful pawns and kings.”)

Off-modern follows a non-linear conception of cultural evolution; it could follow spirals and zigzags, the movements of the chess knight and parallel lines that on occasion can intertwine asymptotically. Or as Vladimir Nabokov explained: “in the fourth dimension of art parallel lines might not meet, not because they cannot, but because they might have other things to do.” As we veer off the beaten track of dominant modern teleologies, we have to proceed nlaterally, not literally, and discover the missed opportunities and roads not taken. These lie buried in modern memory like the routes of public transportation in the American cities that embraced car culture a little too wholeheartedly. Off modern has a quality of improvisation, of a conjecture that doesn’t distort the facts but explores their echoes, residues, implications, shadows.


Off-modern art has both a temporal and a spatial dimension to it: some projects from different corners of the globe can appear belated or peripheral to the familiar centers of modern/postmodern culture. The Off modern has been embraced by  international artists from India to Argentina, from Georgia to Cypress, from Canada to Albania.   For their periphereral situation reveals the eccentricity of the center, and asynchronicity questions the progress of cultural trends and artistic movements that are supposed to succeed one another like well-behaved citizens in the express checkout line. The off modern does not focus on the external pluralism and values of states with their political PR and imperial ambitions, but on internal pluralities within cultures tracing elective affinities and diasporic intimacies across national borders.


There is something preposterous in our contemporary moment which we don’t know how to describe.  I see in it not a conflict between modern and antimodern or a pure "clash of cultures," but rather as a clash of eccentric modernities that are out of synch and out-of phase with each other both temporally and spatially. Multiple projects of globalizations and glocalizations overlap but don’t coincide. In this context of conflicting and intertwined pluralities, the prefix “post” is passé.

Off-Modern New Media addresses these pluralities and multi-directionality. It is not driven by the latest sales pitch but by a meditation on technology itself. At the same time, it is ludic, not Luddite.  It reflects on the aging of technological progress itself. In our lives, high tech and low tech enter into illicit cohabitation, and we expend as much effort in disconnecting from intrusive techno-interfacing as connecting to it, so we try to go offline or visit the “www.gethuman.com” website to recover the fuzzy logic of human error.

The preposition “off” is a product of linguistic creativity and fuzzy logic. It developed from the preposition “of,” with the addition of an extra  “f,” an emphatic and humorous onomatopoeic exaggeration that imitates oral speech. The “off” in “off-modern” designates both the belonging to the critical project of modernity and its edgy excess. It signifies both intimacy and estrangement, belonging and longing to take off. In the twenty-first century, modernity is our antiquity. We live with its ruins, which we incorporate into our present, leaving deliberate scars or disguising our age marks with the uplifting cream of oblivionOff modern then is not antimodern; it is closer in fact to the critical and experimental spirit of modernity than it is to the existing forms of industrial and postindustrial modernization. In other words, it opens into the “modernity of “what if,” and not only modernization as it was.


Off modern is not an “ism.” Rather it is an alternative prism of vision and a way of understanding the preposterous aspects of the present and the past. The off-modern can be lighthearted but it requires a deep conviction. This particular sensibility—perhaps,a  Weltanschauung—crystallized and came to the foreground in the first decade of the twenty-first century,but we might discover some trans-historical elective affinities for it in earlier times. It is also a form of thinking through logos and pathos, memory and imagination, expanding the regimes of the sensible,  wherever techne and muse and gut guide us.


We might be living on an edge of the era when the accepted cultural myths of late capitalism and of technological or digital progress no longer work for us. We are right at the cusp of a paradigm shift, and to anticipate  it we have to expand our field of vision. The logic of edginess is opposed to that of the  seamless appropriation of popular culture, or the synchronicity of computer memory. This is a logic that exposes wounds, cuts, scars, ruins, the afterimage of touch. Its edginess resists incorporation and doesn’t allow for a romance of convenience. Clarification: the off-moderns are edgy, not marginal. They don’t wallow in the self-pity or resentment that comes with marginalization, even when some of this is justified.


To be edgy could also mean avoiding the logic of the cutting edge, even if the temptation is great not to. If you are  just off the butcher’s knife on the cutting edge you will end up obsolete before you are examined. The logic of the cutting edge makes you part of the bloody action movie so common in contemporary popular culture, where tears and affects are only computer generated. Edginess takes a longer duration of time. Only at the risk of being outmoded could one stay con-temporary.


or, What is to be done when everything has been done?

Today we find ourselves caught between two abysses—on one side the horror of oversaturation of everything and on the other a horror vacui—a horror of blank space or a black hole, of undifferentiated silence or noise. We experience an attack of boundless hüzün, a recognition of our unredeemable belatedness and nostalgic longing, thick and dark like the smoke of post-imperial Istanbul. We live in the age of informational overkill and always in the overtime. Everything seems to have been written, painted, and photographed, pixelated ad nauseum; revolutions twisted, histories’ lessons waisted, avant-gardes co-opted, traditions reinvented, jobs filled. Even forgetting history for the sake of life—as Nietzsche once advocated —makes no sense anymore since we feel that history has always already forgotten us in forever accelerating “real time.”

And what’s worse, once we step away from social media, the horror vacui overtakes us—the fear of the unfilled moment and of useless expenditure. Anxiously, our fingers start pushing the buttons of the imaginary blackberry in the air texting—to whom it may or may not concern—the unbearable vacuity of our being, friending and unfriending the indifferent gods.

In the age of niche marketing we are nostalgic for some kind of a common canon, or at least a common ground for contestation, a shared map to deviate from.

Postmodernists responded to this double horror of excess and vacuity with a canny simulation, speculation, and deflation of values hoping that the art market could turn culture into a subprime derivative and get some hefty short-term gains off it. But what if our fingers don’t rise in defeat and bow in the predictable quotation marks? Instead of speculating and simulating the market, we can interrupt it, make a lateral move, think slow thoughts, continue making, flying, falling, failing, and fullfilling our urge to respond —however tongue-tied —to the contemporary world.

Honestly, there is no cure for existential anxieties, only provisional placebos at the holiday discount; but we can still unfold the space between the two abysses and inhabit it better.

The mysterious quest for aesthetic knowledge continues—even when it doesn’t provide a good living—in the interstices between the virtual and the worldly, in the new singularities of the yet unnamed first decade of the twenty-first century, in the new configurations of our intertwined histories that have not been described yet. So don’t tweet only to the market rhythms and don’t look for the charismatic battle cries that repair longing with belonging. Take a moment to interface with yourself in the black mirror of a turned off-screen, take a walk on the blank spots of the google map.

Artists might be the last peripatetic philosophers who can still discover the lost common grounds and unforeseen solidarities— on and off the shared grid.




Declaration and Manifesto of Occupy Wall Street Movement


"As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

"As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.

"We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.


  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

"To the people of the world,

"We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

"Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

"To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

"Join us and make your voices heard!"




A manifesto for the Occupy movement



By An Editorial

Los Angeles Times

Tue, 12/06/2011 - 1:08pm



Dear Occupy Wall Street: We get it -- you're mad as hell and you're not going to take it anymore. You wanted change, it hasn't come and now you're demanding it. But the thing is, you haven't been all that clear about what changes you'd like to see, and that makes it less likely you'll produce any. So we've decided to write your manifesto.


We realize that the Occupy movement is a diverse group united by anger rather than ideas, and many of you will disagree with anything written by a corporate-owned, capitalist newspaper, especially those in your more anarchistic wing. But here's a word of advice: The less attention you pay to those guys, the more successful you'll be. What follows is an attempt to pair the ideals and impulses that have powered your movement with some practical changes in public policy worth fighting for; they probably don't go as far as you'd like, but they're a start. Can we get a little silent finger-wagging?


Financial reform. Although Occupy Wall Street has sprung up as far afield as the University of California, it originally was an occupation of the actual Wall Street in New York, or at least of nearby Zuccotti Park. What motivated this (we think) was resentment of the financial industry, particularly the Wall Street financiers whose irresponsible behavior produced a worldwide economic downturn but who seem not to have paid much of a price. The banks that were bailed out at monstrous taxpayer expense are now returning to profitability, and busily repossessing homes that never should have been financed to begin with but that might yield fewer losses if their mortgages were modified instead of foreclosed upon. Meanwhile, little has been done to reduce the speculative trading that contributes to bubbles and busts.


Protesters and their backers could make a difference by pushing the banks to modify defaulting mortgages and allow more "underwater" borrowers to refinance their loans. That would mean writing off some debt and cutting into profits in the short term, but would yield better results in the long term than repossessing thousands of homes and reselling them in a depressed market. Consumers demonstrated their power over banks when, by closing or threatening to close their accounts, they persuaded Bank of America to drop its plans to impose a charge on debit-card users; a similar economic boycott of banks that are too eager to default could get a new message across. Meanwhile, protesters could pressure Congress to explore a financial transactions tax -- a fee on every Wall Street trade. Presuming that other big trading markets in Europe and Asia did the same (the European Union is considering such a move) and that the tax were small enough to avoid discouraging long-term investing, it could shave hundreds of billions off the national debt and slow speculative trading without hurting overall savings or investment rates.


Taxation. You know the rhetoric: It's the 99 percent versus the 1 percent. The gap between rich and poor has indeed grown precipitously in the last decade, thanks in part to tax changes that have disproportionately benefited the rich and, in turn, helped fuel Occupy Wall Street. For a model of how to fix taxes the right way, we look to the Reagan reforms of 1986, when loopholes and tax shelters were eliminated, top rates were reduced and capital gains (collected mostly by the wealthy) were taxed at the same rate as other kinds of income. Since then, Congress has reinserted the loopholes and reduced capital gains taxes. Republicans are far more unyielding on taxes than they were during the Reagan era and won't return to 1986 without a fight, but if the Occupy movement can rally reform-minded Democrats to turn out at the polls the way the Tea Party has rallied Republicans, it could achieve a great deal.


Corporate influence. The Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a prime example of the kind of judicial activism that conservatives hate, except when it benefits their cause. By granting corporations the same First Amendment rights as individuals when it comes to expenditures on independent political advertising, it overturned legal precedent and increased the power of special interests to influence elections. Congress could undo part of the damage by approving laws that would enssure that shareholders, or rank-and-file union members, approve of their organization's political spending. There's also a movement afoot among a handful of Democratic senators for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United, but that's a quixotic quest. Feel free to back it, Occupiers, but prepare to have your hearts broken when it goes nowhere.


Education. Occupy Wall Street might be about financial reform, but Occupy the University of California, which produced appalling scenes such as the pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis now trending on YouTube, seems to be largely about rising tuition. And students have good reason to be angry. Tuition in the UC system has more than doubled in the last decade, and without an infusion of state funds, the inflation will accelerate. Unfortunately, solving this problem isn't as easy as complaining about it. But the state budget proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown would have avoided some of the draconian higher-education increases now on the table by maintaining vehicle, sales and income taxes at their 2010 levels, a move that was thwarted by legislative Republicans, who blocked the proposal from going to the polls. If pepper-sprayed students can raise awareness of how devastating this is to students and families, and how harmful it will ultimately be for California's economic future, their mucus membranes might not have been burned for nothing.

Marijuana. Speaking of red eyes, the pungent smoke wafting across Occupy encampments in California, including the erstwhile Occupy L.A., indicates that many demonstrators would favor more sensible cannabis laws.


Actually, they appear to favor legalization of even recreational marijuana, but that's not going to happen any time soon. A good start, though, would be to lobby for the federal government to stop treating marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, an absurd designation that asserts it has no medicinal value and has as high a potential for abuse as heroin. A more reasonable classification would encourage much-needed medical research and hopefully lead to lesser criminal penalties for possession. As for untangling the legal web California has created by legitimizing medical marijuana in the face of a federal ban -- good luck on that one.





by Judy Gardner

The art of the 20th century was vastly different than the art of the 19th century. The industrial revolution in the 19th century had brought huge changes to the structure of society. New means of transportation had increased travel and communication. People and ideas were traveling faster than ever before. In the art world, artists began to question how all these changes affected the ways that they could express themselves. All across Europe, seemingly simultaneously and spontaneously, radical art movements burst onto the scene - first the Impressionists, and later the Expressionists, the Fauves, the Cubists, the Futurists, Dada, and the Surrealists - all rebelling against the art establishment that had reigned supreme until that time. What fueled these seemingly spontaneous departures from "the way things have always been done?"


The one common thread that I see in all these movements is that artists were talking passionately about ideas. Ideas about light, about space, about color, about new technology and its meaning for society, about the meaning of art, whether art should exist for its own sake or if it should or even could be used as a support for some ideology. They met in homes, in cafes, in schools. They sketched, they painted, they debated. Manifestos were written, discussed and fought over. Magazines like "Der Blaue Reiter" and "391" and "Dada" were published to disseminate ideas and fuel the spread of theories about color, composition, structure and meaning. This type of dialogue seems to me to be sadly lacking in the art world in the US today. In our Post Post Modern Age we've convinced ourselves that there is no meaning and therefore nothing to talk about. In fact, it often seems that anyone who does confess to even wanting to find meaning in contemporary art is regarded as naive. Only a country bumpkin would think that there is any meaning to be found! Formalism is king. There is no content beyond the visual object. In his book, The Mission of Art, visionary artist Alex Grey states that, "A strange form of evil has infected the soul of humanity in the twentieth century, and it bears the name nihilism. Nihilism is the belief that all existence is meaningless and there is no possibility of truth. Nihilism is the hopeless darkness of the spiritually blind�. And nihilism has become one of the premier attitudes displayed in popular culture."


Much of the artistic dialog and passion of the early 20th Century centered around making a break with the artistic traditions of the past. The various schools of art which had reigned supreme since the Enlightenment, espoused methods of realistic representation of subject matter, and taught in a rigid and lockstep manner. Students who did not dare to wander too far afield from the material they were being taught. Access to Galleries and Salons was limited to artists who had come up through the ranks in this process. The freedom to experiment with abstraction or non-traditional materials or to include new technologies in their work fueled the rebellion of the Modern Artists. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in securing the freedom of the individual artist to express their own vision. Ironically, this has created a new Art Establishment that values newness and originality above content. Sadly, the public has been largely left behind in this process. Artists have earned artistic freedom at the expense of a public that understands and believes in their work.

I propose a Post Post Post Modernist movement. We have at our disposal all the artistic styles of the past and an exciting array of new materials and technologies that have yet to be explored by artists. The potential exists for some really radical new ways of expressing ourselves, but ours will be a poor and lonely existence if artists cannot find a way to bring the public back into the understanding and enjoyment of our work. The key to getting the public to re-embrace art is to create work that is "about" something and to make that meaning accessible. I am not for one moment espousing a return to representationalism as the sole means of conveying meaning. Meaning can be conveyed in any number of ways. Many of the artists who first experimented with abstraction, did so in a quest to express more deeply spiritual concepts than they felt could be communicated by painting recognizable objects.


What I am proposing is not a specific change of style, but rather a change of attitude. I suggest that artists take responsibility for understanding and expressing verbally the ideas that fuel their work. Sometimes that understanding will not be complete. Often, an artist is trying to get at some spiritual itch that can't be scratched. The artist uses their artistic expression as a means of working out difficult or problematic emotions. But even this limited understanding makes the piece more accessible if the artist is willing to be open about their process. There is a trend in current "Art Think" that we should not have to explain a work of art. People should just "get it." I recognize that there is sometimes a transcendent moment when someone viewing a work of art has an overwhelming emotional connection with the work and the supposed intent of the artist who created it. Facilitating these aesthetic experiences is (and should be) the goal of any artist who aspires to spiritual content in their work. However, many people do not have the tools at their disposal to connect with art in styles they don't immediately understand. This will become even more of a problem as artists explore new media and new concepts of what artistic expression means. Artists have become lazy and snobbish in deciding that it is the responsibility of the viewer to educate themselves in order to appreciate a work of art. Then they bemoan the fact that "No one buys art anymore!" Well of course they don't! They're absolutely terrified of making a bad decision and inadvertently buying "bad art" but they have no frame of reference to determine what that is. We of the art world stand by shaking our heads and saying, "Tut, tut, our culture just doesn't appreciate art."


A Post Post Post Modernist recognizes that artistic expression has spiritual and emotional content whether the artist chooses to validate it or not. Even complete lack of meaning is a meaning in its own way. The current emphasis on formalism, with its denial of deeper intent beyond the marks on the canvas, actually has vast spiritual significance. When we aspire to no meaning in art, we are actually saying that there is no meaning in the Universe and giving voice to the nihilism that has gripped out culture.

It is the responsibility of the artist to do the internal work to attempt to gain understanding of the spiritual and emotional content of their work. It is also the responsibility of the artist, through study and through dialog with others, to master the vocabulary necessary to communicate this to others. Only by immersing ourselves in the passion of our work and effectively communicating this passion, will we create a 21st Century Art that is a vibrant and meaningful part of our culture.


other relevant manifestoes:









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