• Maheen Awan

Simple Truths - A Manifesto

Writing a Manifesto can seem like a daunting task, and, frankly, it was. Aren’t Manifestos written by great artists and writers who have years of experience, seen so much and have influenced many? I guess not if I’m asked to write one.


What is a Manifesto though?


Ryan D. Easttum, a Masters Student at Buffalo State College, in his thesis paper titled Manifesto: A Personal Revolt has called it a mission statement on steroids. Maybe he is right. It is after all just an exaggerated version of one’s values.


When I think of the word, I think Mantra. My Mantra – The essence of who I am. My manifesto is supposed to represent everything I stand for professionally and personally. So, who am I? For sure there is a driving force behind all my decisions and actions. Maybe that’s what my Manifesto is supposed to help me find. To me, it seems like a journey of self-discovery. There are some things I know for sure about myself; I’m authentic, real and bold. My manifesto needs to embody just that.


In Manifestos: A Manifesto, Julian Hanna has highlighted the 10 traits of effective public declarations. These proved to be a good starting point to get things moving. The contents of which are:

  1. Manifestos usually include a list of numbered tenets.

  2. Manifestos exist to challenge and provoke.

  3. Manifestos are advertisements.

  4. Manifestos come in many forms.

  5. Manifestos are better very short than very long.

  6. Manifestos are theatrical.

  7. Manifestos are fiction dressed as fact.

  8. Manifestos embrace paradox.

  9. Manifestos are always on the bleeding edge.

  10. Manifestos are magic (almost).

All this just means that a Manifesto can be anything and everything. It just needs to catch the reader’s attention. So, let’s go through a few Manifestos to see how they’ve incorporated these traits. I thought it would be an enlightening experience to go through beliefs of great personalities that have lived before me. To my dismay, it was very underwhelming. Some manifestos made no sense to me, while some I could not relate to and some were too long (full on publications) for me to even bother with them; but I was able to come across a few that inspired me and developed my understanding of how to go about writing my own.


The first one I came across was by Joao Verissimo and Teresa Rodrigues, titled The Designer's Manifesto. The project reflects multiple aspects of their relationship with clients and teammates, and their work philosophy. The tenets of their manifesto are simple, and most are such that they would resonate with all:


Fig. 1-6 A Designer's Manifesto (2019)


Clean, concise and straight forward. Their manifesto is all about showing empathy, exuding confidence and making sure that others feel heard. They aim for creativity via collaboration while taking ownership for any and all mishaps along the way.


These points hit home for me. Some of these spot-on define me as an individual, but if so, then what’s the point of writing another one. Anything I have to say is already out there, but that also shouldn’t stop me from creating my own life philosophy. The biggest block for me was self-doubt. There are certain principles which I believe in, but do I actually follow them in my day-to-day life? I like to think I live by them and try my best to consciously practice them. I decided to ask my friends and family if they have witnessed me following rules I claim to live by. The conclusion was so-so. Which is fine, I realized. Just because I hold certain beliefs doesn’t mean I’ll be following all of them right this moment. The goal is to grow and make sure I incorporate them into my life steadily and one day be a better version of myself. We’re humans after all, hence severely flawed.


A few of the tenets of my manifesto I was sure of as soon as I was handed this brief:

  • Live and Let Live - So easy to say, yet so difficult to follow! Being brought up in a society where everyone is extremely concerned about the affairs of others and always has an opinion on other people's life choices, I learned very early on not to engage in such idiocy. I mean, I won't lie, it wasn't always easy, especially when such toxicity is part of your everyday life, but unlearning such behavior was a part of my journey in becoming the person I am today. We all hate it when other people, especially strangers, think they have a right to pass judgement on our lives, yet somehow at the same time we hold strong views about theirs. Why can't we just let others be? If their decisions don't affect me, or harm anyone then it's really not my concern. Let people and things be.


  • Change – The Only Constant - I've always looked forward to change. Change of season, change in people, change in time, change of scenario... For me, change just means that life is moving forward, like it's supposed to. Living the same routine, around the same people, in the same conditions only makes living life a tedious task. Same thing day in and day out is not what I'm made for. A monotonous lifestyle only results in mental, emotional and physical fatigue, hence I accept and adopt whatever changes come my way. Making sure I utilize the opportunity to build myself. Especially the previous year, when COVID-19 proved how important it is to adapt to constant changes.


(Although, the constant changes in lockdown rules are just bothersome at this point)


  • Trust God’s Plan - After years of questioning why things don’t go my way despite trying so hard and doing all the right things, this is the only conclusion that’s valid. I’ve come to realize that by trusting God’s plan I’ve received far better things than I could have ever wished for. The process is painful and hard and it sends you on multiple detours but, ultimately, it’s a blessing in disguise.

Another Manifesto I found interesting was The Manifesto of Futurism, by the Italian writer and philosopher FT Marinetti. This piece of writing also marked the start of the Futurism movement, which celebrated tech advancement and urban modernity. Have a look at what it’s about:


Fig. 7-8 The Manifesto of Futurism (1909)


As beautifully written as it is, it oozes eccentric traits, truthfully speaking. It shows how it’s written by a great writer who was passionate about what he believed in, yet shows characteristics of fascism, which Marinetti and his colleagues practiced. Even though, to me, it’s a very problematic piece of work, which would face severe criticism in today’s day and age, it did however manage to encourage artists of that era to break away from the cultural and literary traditions of the time. This is also what makes this whole process so intimidating. How does my Manifesto compare and compete with the likes of those who have come before me?


I did get to extract a few tenets for my own Manifesto using Marinetti’s as inspiration.


  • Break Norms, Create Magic - One should not conform to the standard set by those whose time has passed. One should always feed their curiosity and that is exactly what I strive to achieve in my academic track and professional career. My goal is to constantly experiment with my ideas so that they can foster into something that brings about change. It is essential to feed one’s mind and soul and one way of doing so is by disrupting the typical every day and bringing about thought-provoking ideologies, and using these ideologies to build a space that encourages revolutions. In the words of Maurits C. Escher, a Dutch Graphic Artist, “Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.”

This next one stems from just how rude I found FT Marinetti's whole piece of writing.

  • Be Kind, But Not Blind - There are immeasurable ways to be kind to someone but if you want to be kind to yourself you have to be honest. There’s no two ways about it. In a world where you have to circumvent through a million thoughts every day, it’s easy to hold on to things/people that add little to no value in your life for far longer than is needed and to that I say: No More. It is vital to have these little honest chats with yourself every day in order to truly distinguish between feelings that stem out of relationships of mere convenience versus those feelings that are derived from the sensations of joy and happiness. That’s why I aim to keep my life simple, I try my best to show respect, empathy and consideration to all, but refuse to take any bullshit they might throw my way. I refuse to be a doormat for people who think they are superior to others.

Let’s move on to another Manifesto written by Grayson Perry RA. In 2014, he created the Red Alan’s Manifesto, for the Royal Academy. Over the years he has raised some interesting questions - such as: Can anything be art? Who decides whether art is good or bad? These are reflected in his manifesto as well.



Fig. 9 Red Alan's Manifesto (2014)


I love the whole aesthetic of it. It’s not trying too hard, which makes the whole concept very humble unlike FT Marinetti’s work. The beauty of this is in its simplicity, no doubt. The two points that resonated with me the most and forced me to think about them more were:


Nothing in art is new or old fashioned, only good or bad.

We must dare to make that difficult first mark on the blank canvas of the future.


Try, try and try. That’s all that matters. Nothing is new, nothing is original. It’s all the same ideas being mixed and matched to make something fresh. Originality and newness are a myth. So, here’s my take on this:

  • Depth Over Comfort - For me, my constant source of inspiration has been my child-like curiosity and my thirst for exploring the unknown. It has led me to many different places, with many different people and left me with many different feelings. But being curious isn’t only about discovering what’s new, it is equally about diving into the depths of what you may already know to rediscover, reinvent and reimagine. In order to do any of those you have to persevere. Persevere when the going gets tough. Persevere when you’re faced with life altering challenges and especially persevere when you are stuck in a situation where it seems like there is no way out. Could be applicable in both my personal and professional life. It is vital to test waters which are deep. Throwing myself into the deep end has forced me to realize and prioritize important aspects of my life. It’s simple: The only thing that’s stopping you from accomplishing all that you want is your comfort zone.


  • Give more, Expect more - “Whatever you give away will come back to you twofold”, my mum used to say when I was little. As I grow older, I realize that may not always be the case. Often times, in life, you get way less than you deserve, but rarely ever do you get more than what you expect. Give all you want but expect more not just for yourself but for those who cannot speak for themselves no matter how loud they scream. Expect more from those who can do for those whom we sideline, marginalize and alienate. Give to the world with nothing more than a mere expectation that what you put out there will amplify so greatly that those wishing to look away and cover their ears are compelled to listen to those they have power over.


  • No I in Win - Figuratively, duh. Collaboration fosters creativity, which in turn fosters growth and success. Being egoistic has rarely resulted in development. Hoarding ideas when you know they can benefit others should be a crime. I just want to inspire people, be it with my kindness or my creative philosophies, but I also want to take as much inspiration along the way from the ones who are masters in their fields.


  • Ask, Ask, Ask! - If you want to know, ask. If you want to learn, ask. If you want something, ask. We ask hundreds of questions each day, majority of them rhetoric in nature and directed at our own selves. What we sometimes fail to appreciate; however, is the fact that questions by their very nature are powerful. You can ask questions to know all that you don't; you can ask questions to learn all that you want to; and you can ask questions to simply get things you want, from jobs to relationships.


  • Be Purfect - For me, to be perfect is to be your true authentic self and to authentically be yourself you have to be honest with yourself and if you’re being honest you know you’re flawed. Perfection in actuality cannot be achieved, and it isn’t something I want to strive for either. I want my work to be real and emotional, one that has depth, and this is something that can only be attained by embracing the human touch. To be human is to be flawed, and using those flaws to your advantage instead of letting them bring you down.


  • Doubt Less To Be Doubtless - Numerous great ideas have died because of self-doubt. Questioning one’s self-worth leads to missed opportunities. Talk to yourself as you would to a friend, be kinder to yourself and more encouraging. Build a solid/healthy relationship with that tiny voice in your head. Let it be your voice of reason but never let it hold you back. The greatest risk you can take is not taking any risks at all.


  • Me, Myself and Not Them - Every thought I think, every action I take, every second that I live, I live for myself. Make no mistake, there is only one person I compete against and that person is myself from yesterday. Greater minds than mine have come and gone, people who have shaped the world as we know it, individuals who have inspired generations upon generations and yet all I want to do is be myself. My life can only be about me, it’s about the legacy I intend to leave behind.

Here are a few more manifestos and kinda sorta manifestos that have given me inspiration throughout the process.


These are by a designer named Edvinas Reika from his Instagram @edreika

Fig. 10-14 Unknown (2020)


These are a part of a collective Manifesto formed by artists, designers and creative studios named New Art School Rules!


Fig. 15-19 New Art School Rules! (2019)


“A manifesto doesn't just pour out in 20 minutes,” Michael Hess, founder of sales management firm Core 6 Advisors, says. “Being honest with yourself is a process. You sit, think, write, and edit. Put it aside. Come back to it and revise until the words are exactly what you want. A good manifesto requires a depth of introspection that exposes vulnerabilities and helps you address them.”


He couldn't have been more right. The whole process was messy and brutal and way too long than I expected it to be, but the outcome was refreshing.


That’s it. These are the 12 principles I strongly believe in. These have hours and hours of thinking and research gone into them. This is a declaration of my core values and beliefs, what I stand for, and how I intend to live my life. I plan to use these as a foundation to build my life upon, and live more purposefully. You can also find the online exhibition version of my manifesto here


Hope you enjoy reading them, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

Fig. 20-31 Simple Truths - A Manifesto (2021)


Bibliography:

Baker, H. (2015) 10 game-changing art manifestos | Blog | Royal Academy of Arts. [online] Royalacademy.org.uk. At: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/ten-game-changing-manifestos (Accessed 30 December 2020).


Cowan, K. and Cowan, K. (2019) New Art School Rules: Leading artists and designers create a new manifesto for creatives. [online] Creative Boom. At: https://www.creativeboom.com/inspiration/new-school-rules/ (Accessed 6 January 2021).


Easttum, R. (2009) Manifesto: A Personal Revolt. [online] Digitalcommons.buffalostate.edu. At: https://digitalcommons.buffalostate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1058&context=creativeprojects (Accessed 1 January 2021).


Eveleth, R. (2019) When Futurism Led to Fascism—and Why It Could Happen Again. [online] Wired. At: https://www.wired.com/story/italy-futurist-movement-techno-utopians/ (Accessed 24 December 2020).


Hanna, J. (2014) The 10 Things All Great Manifestos Need. [online] The Atlantic. At: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/manifestos-a-manifesto-the-10-things-all-manifestos-need/372135/ (Accessed 22 December 2020).


McNulty, E. (2016) Forget the Resolutions — Write Your Personal Manifesto. [online] strategy+business. At: https://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Forget-the-Resolutions-Write-Your-Personal-Manifesto?gko=22bdb (Accessed 2 January 2021).


Verissimo, J. and Rodrigues, T. (2019) A Designer's Manifesto.. [online] Adesignersmanifesto.webflow.io. At: https://adesignersmanifesto.webflow.io/ (Accessed 30 December 2020).


Wessels, L. (2012) The futurist Manifesto by F.T. Marinetti. [online] lindiewesselshistory. At: https://lindiewesselshistory.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/the-futurist-manifesto-by-f-t-marinetti/ (Accessed 27 December 2020).


Williams, M. (2019) Artists and designers share a collective creative manifesto in new show. [online] Creative Review. At: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/new-art-school-rules-design-mcr/ (Accessed 2 January 2021).

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