My Personal Artistic Manifesto – Updated June 2012
When I first started univeristy, I was introduced to the concept of the “artistic manifesto”. It was something that struck me as immediately useful, whether for a company of artists or for a single person: a document to which you could return, time after time, to review the reasons why you started out on a particular path, and to examine whether those goals are still valid, whether you’ve remained true to them, and whether some of your practices need to change.
I sat down to writing almost immediately, and after several drafts I had a starting place. An artistic manifesto that I was proud to put my name to — something to build the beginnings of my career from.
Every so often since then, I’ve sat down and re-read the document I wrote. I’ve updated it a few times — even re-wrote it entirely, at one point — but certain things have carried through. Even as the world changes, and my life changes, and my knowledge grows, I like having something that I can go back to. Something that says, “this is what I want from my life”, so that when I’m facing a choice, or an obstacle, or just feeling unmotivated, I can read my own words and feel inspired.
I spent part of my day, today, updating and re-writing portions of my manifesto. Not because it had become less valid, but because it’s been about two years since I’d last done so, and some things in my life have changed since I last took a serious look at this. And when I was finished, I thought: I want to share this. So here it is, in its entirety. My personal artistic manifesto, in its current iteration.
I believe in art.
I believe that art is not merely a pastime, or a hobby. Art is a necessity for human life, as important as food, and safety, and shelter. A life devoid of art is not worth living — indeed, cannot even be called “life”. To live without art is merely to exist, in a sort of existential limbo, awaiting illumination and enlightenment.
I believe that art is the purest of human endeavors, beginning as it does with the most basic of human qualities, the thing that separates intelligent beings from mere animals: the need to communicate. When early man painted on cave walls, told stories around the fire, and learned to create music, the purpose was to communicate. To share, with other intelligent beings, a bit of their knowledge and experience. And this was not mere entertainment, a simple way to pass the time: important knowledge was passed on, bonds forged between individuals, and the advancement of the human species was fostered by this great variety of communication.
I believe that art has more power than science, or religion, or politics, because none of these things would prosper without art to support them. No idea, however grand, can be realized without communication. If it is not shared, and spread, and accepted into a culture, an idea dies. Kings and empires have been brought down by the stroke of a pen; revolutions sparked by the notes of a song. It is our responsibility, as artists, to use and shape this power wisely.
There is no art that is not political. Art is an expression of the culture from which it comes, whether in support of or against the status quo. To dismiss art as merely entertainment is to ignore its true nature and power, and the artist does this at their peril. It is when we engage the power of our chosen medium that we can truly shape the message we convey, and create the most powerful end product.
There is no art that is not collaborative. Every artist is shaped by the people and the culture and the world that surrounds them, so that even if they create in absolute isolation, they are still bringing the world in with them. And when the art is shared with an audience, then there is collaboration as well: the audience’s thoughts and feelings and reactions will shape the art in different ways, so that one piece may touch every single person in a slightly different place. Thus, art is never static, never “finished”: it is always living, changing, existing in the present tense for all who encounter it.
There is no art which is “good” or “bad”, for these absolutes cannot apply to the basic need to communicate. There are, however, different levels of skill with which a piece may be executed, and some art is therefore more effective. Then, too, there is art that effectively serves its purpose, but lacks any relevance: this art does not speak to an audience, or does not share anything worth saying. It is the artist’s responsibility to use the power of their art to its fullest — to always execute a piece to the best of their ability, and to make sure that their message is a thing worth saying.
I believe that artists should always aim to communicate something meaningful. Without passion, art rings hollow, and quickly becomes irrelevant. What is meaningful to each particular artist may be different, but what is most important is that passion be the thing at the beginning.
Art is a great motivator for change, and should always be used for promoting action. Art which supports the status quo is ineffective, as it only promotes inaction. It is the responsibility of the artist to create that which communicates a need for something to be done. A participant in art — whether they are the creator or an audience member — should be left changed by their encounter with art, and motivated to go out and do something about it.
I believe that theatre is one of the most effective forms of artistic expression. Theatre is highly collaborative, to a degree not seen in many other mediums, requiring many different people with a great variety of skill sets to realize a production. The involvement of the audience is live and immediate, with their presence and feedback providing the opportunity for the same production to be different on every single night. This immersion and involvement of the viewer places them into a state where they are ready to be impacted and changed by the message being communicated through the art.
It is my aim to create art which is effective and relevant, and to shun that which supports the status quo and inaction. I will create art that effects the changes I wish to see within the world.
Theatre is my chosen medium, although I am not exclusively a theatrical artist. I will work to promote the creation of theatre and to advance the craft of the stage.
I believe that art is more effective when it is created with the audience in mind. Thus I will focus my creative energies on art that is specifically relevant to the people who surround me and who will be my audience.
Art is meant to be shared with others. I will share my knowledge of my craft and work to create opportunities for other artists, as well as for myself.
I will keep learning, and seeking to learn. I will never consider myself “finished”, because a piece of art is never finished as long as there are people to interact with it.
I will not give up, no matter what obstacles stand in my way, because to live without art is not living.
I will change the world.