Manifesto, Julian Rosefeldt's feature-film version of his recent multi-screen installation, begins with a burning fuse in extreme close-up, then pulls back to show a firework igniting. Accompanied, like the rest of this piece, by Cate Blanchett's narration of actual artist manifestos, the intro foreshadows what's about to erupt: a maelstrom of cultural indictments and anarchic rants, delivered by one of the greatest shape-shifters of our time.
It's key that Rosefeldt, a German artist who's taken his installation everywhere from Melbourne to New York, cast Blanchett to portray all 13 characters. Not just because she's chameleonic--and not just because it's important to see a woman playing a news anchor, an impresario, a scientist, and more--but because she has the breathtaking vigor to sell this challenging rebel yell to the layperson.
As it swerves from hopeful to nihilistic, Manifesto quotes the likes of Marx, Dada, and Lebbeus Woods, an architect who died in 2012 but whose words, read by Blanchett in fervid voice-over, feel ripe for today: "I am at war with my time, with history... I am one of millions who do not fit in." In pulling like-minded proclamations from many eras, Rosefeldt proves that the idea of the artist as revolutionary is as old as ink on paper. But it's Blanchett who serves as our human conduit, enticing us to be schooled. It seems no coincidence that, in her final vignette, she literally embodies a teacher.
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