I believe art should be made with the urgency of political action. Why make art unless it is urgent? Why drain away life in such a decadent practice unless there is something that needs to be understood that could not be expressed with forms that are more easily commercialized? I like to think of public speech as a type of engagement that can’t be walked away from. Our artworks sit silently in the gallery, waiting for passersby to pause and have a meaningful interaction, and they just float on the surface like soap bubbles. If artists truly mean to contribute to culture instead of money laundering, isn’t there something we could do to change the energy of the room? Wouldn’t it be better to thump on the pulpit like a revival preacher or a political insurgent? If we want to wake people up to SEEING things we better learn how to work the room.
Historically, manifestos represented action that was anti-establishment. The government, the powers that be, the social machine that depended on keeping things the same, did not issue manifestos. The tension and excitement of these declarations came from staking one’s livelihood on something that may not come to pass, because all the wealth and violence in the world was against it. The dictionary defines a manifesto “as a public declaration of policy and aims, especially one issued before an election by a political party or candidate.”
In my practice as an artist and a feminist I have been using the Manifesto as a space for truth telling. As bell hooks says in her book All About Love, “The heart of justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than the way we want it to be. More than ever before we, as a society, need to renew a commitment to truth telling.” But telling the truth can be dangerous. By writing about the truth in a condensed and a cohesive form we can empower ourselves by introducing it into the right situations and witnessing it as a political collective. If your truth is the violent subtext of society that is out to destroy you at every moment, this can keep you from going insane. While the Manifesto is a gendered word belonging to a masculine history, women have been taking it for themselves. Statements like the Riot Grrl Manifesto and the Feminist Kill Joy Manifesto inspire us to move past anger to articulation and action.
These are some darkly comic manifestos I have written about my life as an artist and feminist in Berlin.
Someone said last weekend that she liked how I spoke about my work with urgency.
I’m begging you people, don’t fill the art world with trivial sh*t.
Don’t make art unless the message you are sending out into the world is saving your life (your sanity) or someone else’s.
People give up their lives for these urgent messages, really prayers to a sometimes-godlike humanity. They give up the possibility of wealth and health. They give up holidays and time with family. They give up the possibility of having a family or even a permanent place of residence. They move to countries where they don’t speak the language and aren’t welcome.
The artists losing their lives to save their lives don’t have time for your trivial sh*t.
The time it takes for people to sift through one liners to discover real work is shortening the artists’ life spans.
Art is not a chance to look hot with your friends or make clever pop culture references.
Not that there isn’t a place for jokes in art, but when we look at the traditions of the Art joke, like Absurdism or Dada, we see that the artists were laughing at something so painful that people were tired of crying about it.
Women of color have no choice but to self-mythologize and self-institutionalize.
When we compete in the model minority Olympics we are not paying our dues or earning our keep but attempting to obtain the small percentage the system deigns to offer us under the heading of diversity, inevitably stabbing all of our sisters in the back on the way. We are in training for a position as white supremacy’s handmaiden.
To really start creating in abundance we need to make the structure that tells us we deserve to live in abundance instead of allowing ourselves to be trampled underfoot by a system that tells us we deserve nothing.
I am fighting two wars.
Women of color are fighting a war of representation that reaches into the past and projects itself into the future. A war over who is visible and who authors what is seen. Women like Matahari took our clothing, our jewelry, and our cultural products, selling them as their own until we became alienated by our own image. Now the world is populated by our absence, and the twisted versions created by these wannabes. Our bodies are being bought and sold all the time, but we still don’t make any money. Like vampires we suffer from being unable to see ourselves in the mirror.
I created Sadette Delacroix to fight the war for me. My inner goddess gave birth to a psychedelic time traveling goddess who seeks to infiltrate the system; to create, distribute, and profit. A brown girl imitating a white girl, imitating a brown girl. I can’t culturally appropriate myself, I’m TAKING IT BACK. Because I listened to my auntie when she told me we didn’t wear blouses under our saris before the British infected us with repression and made the temple dancers into prostitutes. That body is mine, to make, recreate, and multiply.
Artists are fighting a war, with people who want art to exist purely as an elite commodity, alienated both from meaning and a public. They want it to be a dead object, a token of speculation. People need beauty for meaning making, not just industrial consumption. And when we have unearthed all the sexism and bigotry from the world’s religions, will we have anything left…Will we still have space to be spiritual, worship beauty, and connect to each other? Could art be that space?
So come to the goddess, buy her icons, perform her rituals. Live in beauty; be connected, blessed.
This is a group for people who don’t belong.
Who wrestle with imaginary homelands, were robbed of their mother’s tongue
Or even their mother
Who fight with 30-90 percent of their body against any community they could or should belong to
Who can’t hash tag their background for fear of trolls
Who sat alone between voluntarily segregated school cafeteria tables
In a Deep Dark south
Is Europe that different?
Who are unwilling to establish themselves via proximity to whiteness
We have seen how homogenous communities create networks of support and credibility through circles of self-validation, pushing variation to the outside, the margins of survival.
We need each other. We hang together or we fall apart.
This is for you.
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