Street Art, Futurism, And Manifestos

Today has been the first official day back. Last week was a week of meting old friends, recapping over the summer vacation, and filming a one minute video to promote ourselves. I realised whilst making my video two things:

1. Avid really is rubbish.

2. My portfolio is somewhat limited.

Last year was a year of mostly failures. Indeed, learning from these experiences is a good thing – I was bound to meet with hardship at some point. Now into the second year, it is time to start creating artefacts that will benefit my portfolio in the future. I am pleased to say that I do feel ready to undertake this. I feel I know everything I need to to get cracking on some serious media production.

And the university has wasted no time in tasking me with such.

Today, we have studied very generally the idea of the ‘manifesto’. Manifestos are lists of rules, or guidelines, or a set of beliefs or ideologies. Manifestos can vary in their content and meaning, but to start us off, we looked at Futurism – an art movement that took place at the start of the 20th century – and the Futurism Manifesto. Funnily enough, I have seen one such manifesto in rather recent times – I recently watched the film Antichrist by Lars Von Trier. Lars Von Trier was one of the founding members of the Dogme ’95 movement, which was a film movement of the mid-nineties which attempted to get cinema back to it’s origins. Ironically, his film Antichrist breaks almost all of the rules listed in the Dogme ’95 manifesto… and it is also his most successful to date. Go figure.

But back here in Coventry, Futurism was the topic we were focused on. The Futurism manifesto was very aggressive, and very much about national identity and pride. Written by fellow artist F.T Marinette, the manifesto is written in an almost poetic sense of self-belief. Futurism chose to discard the past in favour of a better future, expressed through the forms of paintings. The art would be focused on the minority, and their overcoming of the establishments that threatened to dominate their future. It was about being poetic, and making serious points through the work. Someone in the lecture hall suggested it was biblical – referring to the ten commandments. In some ways that is true, but another person suggested the manifesto was simply the clashing of various intellectuals. Myself? I thought the manifesto was about the dominance of art through aggressive physical control. If art could dominate minds, or at the very least stand for something, perhaps the artists sought to become opinion leaders in some form of revolt. After all, Futurism was indeed setting out to challenge preconceived ideas.

At this point, you already know a lecturer is about to ask you to make a manifesto of your own, but before that, we were sent to our local art gallery to check out some street art. Banksy’s work was amongst them, along with work by aptly-titled artist Mohammed Ali, and several other street artists – some of which made works taken from the street, but others who had taken the style of street art, but designed the pieces specially for gallery exhibits. There were several parts of the room open for the audience to create their own street art on the wall, demonstrating how open street art is, and how connected it is to the social factors that influence it.

One particular piece I took time to analyse was ‘Napalm’ by Banksy. This was mostly due to it’s shock value, yet also due to the fact I could identify all three characters in the print. Mickey Mouse, a symbol of innocence and an icon of Western Culture, walks on the left. Ronald MacDonald, a symbol of consumerism, and also an icon of Western Culture, walks on the right. In the middle, a vietnamese child running from a recently-napalmed village during the vietnam war. A symbol of the horrors of war, and a vivid icon of what Western Culture has done. The image epitomised several factors I had noticed throughout the gallery – first off that politics and war were a recurring theme. Second, that youth, or moreover, innocence, is also present in most of the works. But this picture seemed to revel in the juxtaposition and contradictions it portrayed, that Western Culture is responsible for all three icons, for better or for worse. The use of colour is also notable – yellows and browns, almost replicating the effect of a napalm strike.

Considering this, I deduced that street art had several running themes that guided the works of the artists. Work needed to be metaphorical, and it needed to operate on a level of social context. This was to be a big help when my lecturer then asked us to make our own manifesto for street art. We are to create our own manifesto, and then create an artefact based on that manifesto. The manifesto has to be entitled ‘street art’, and the work has to be just as such.

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