- Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics ed. by Laura Cull and Will Daddario
An innovative and timely collection, Manifesto Now! queries the ongoing value of a potentially outdated literary form, the manifesto, by juxtaposing contemporary examples, critical responses, and theories of time and embodiment. The volume’s greatest strength lies in its desire to consider a wide range of performative acts (protests, performance art, artistic processes, and critical analyses) as manifestations of the possible futures they project. Although it does not quite add up to a set of “instructions,” Manifesto Now! does provide a rich panorama of the ways philosophy might be enacted in the politically charged present that performance calls into being, and is itself a kind of performative manifestation.
Moving beyond the rhetorical tropes of their avant-garde predecessors, Cull, Daddario, and their contributors wager that “in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the manifesto functions as a performance score through which philosophical concepts express themselves through embodied participation in a field of political conditions” (3). Pursuing such conditions and our active involvement, each two-essay “Analogue” creates an architecture of experience whose defining feature is a requirement “that we take time to embody the subject positions conjured through its performativity and, through so doing, that we participate in a political discussion” (3). As such, the structure of the book, which ‘takes time’ to reveal its compelling logic, actively participates in its own aesthetic-philosophical project. Vacillating between so-called theory and practice, it performs the disintegration of binary logics that many of the contributors address. It also effectively develops associations across highly varied political terrain to suggest an emergent and inclusive community of activists whose work challenges hegemonic ways of knowing through a variety of embodied, con-textual encounters. The remarkable effect is that we, as readers, are included in a discussion that takes shape through our invited acts of associative meaning making. Ferrying meaning between ports, we supply the imaginative connections that give the work its alluring power. While such connections accumulate in hindsight, they also emerge organically in several of the astutely paired essays.
For example, analyzing Freee Art Collective’s recent work, Ken Wilder proclaims a sphere of performance that incorporates spectators into a structured process of inscribing illocutionary force onto art events, specifically through reading and evaluating scripted political speech. He argues persuasively that the fictional/real “counter-public spheres” that such performances manifest lead to the critical activation of the subject, empowering individuals as both producers and consumers of political speech. Freee responds with their own manifesto for the gradual democratization of art based on the immediate creation of “a million [End Page 132] [such] temporary public spheres” (82). The generous reader will recognize the current volume as one of these polyvocal and inclusive sites for active dialogue.
Elsewhere, contributors discuss how specific protest performances activate audiences inured to the utopian polemics of a bankrupt mode of political speech. Michael Shane Boyle theorizes UCMeP’s protests at UC Berkeley, including one in which prominent landmarks were auctioned off in support of the move to privatize (29), as “ironic manifesto[s]” whose inverted rhetoric erodes the impenetrable logic of late capitalism and neoliberalism through embodied disidentification (25). While Boyle posits persuasively the critical activation of the subject as the result of such “purposefully disingenuous” performances, Maurya Wickstrom and Stephanie Vella explore a different, but equally compelling kind of activation in part two. In their perspicacious view, OWS’s “embodied manifesto”/encampment in Zucotti Park “shattered the temporal narratives of neoliberalism” by performing the arrival and duration of a present that did not serve the intended future (39, 45). Dispensing with future-oriented linguistic truth claims (which they see as hopelessly attenuated by neoliberalism’s colonization of all possible future narratives) they describe a radical presenting (manifesting?) through performances of collective time. Departing entirely from the impediments of progressive temporal logic, and similarly moving beyond neoliberalist reform, Stuart McLean paints a vivid and convincing “dreamtime” picture of a...