“Art got to exist for art’s sake” – Julian Rosefeldt presents ‘Manifesto’

A provoking visual and contemporary art piece, Julian’s Rosefeldt’s ‘Manifesto’ is one of Aarhus 2017’s most powerful cultural offers. 

by Ella Navarro

Aarhus 2017 brings German artist Julian Rosefeldt’s (Munich 1965) ‘Manifesto’ to the city to celebrate history and culture in the form of an exhibition that makes you stop and think about today’s world.

Originally premiered in Melbourne, in the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), this 13 film channel installation shows Australian actress Cate Blanchett in 12 outstanding character performances, which profess literary artistic manifestos from the 2oth century, questioning the role of the artist in today’s society.

“I rediscovered the artist’s manifestos when I was doing the work, not only because they are mind-blowing, not only because they are about art, but because they have this incredible energy, enthusiasm and wish to change the world along with the art, and that’s very fascinating,” explains Rosefeldt in an interview with the ACMI.

Wine and manifestos
The premiere of the exhibition, held at O Space on Friday, March 10th, gathered a number of important figures –including ARoS director Erlend Høyersten, Aarhus 2017 CEO Rebecca Matthews, and Aarhus 2017 programme director Juliana Engberg – alongside art enthusiasts and curious Aarhusians.

O Space is located by Aarhus harbour, near Filmbyen. Look for a red neon ‘O’ and you will find it. The space was created specifically for Aarhus 2017 with a rough, unpolished setting between concrete grey columns, and some occasional graffiti that seems to have been left there on purpose to celebrate the original architecture. O Space is defined as “an intersection of past, present and future.”

Its main purpose is to showcase different contemporary art and video exhibitions by international and local artists throughout the year. Julian Roselfedt’s ‘Manifesto’ was the first to break the ice, celebrated with some wine and canapes for those who attended after they had experienced and watched the videos.

The power of image and sound
The setting prepared for Roselfedt’s exhibition consists of 13 movie screens in a dark room illuminated by the power of the images and speeches. The first manifesto doesn’t feature Blanchett, but you can hear her voice over a burning flame as she recites Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto from 1848.

Blanchett performing the role of a news presenter, while she recites art manifestos from Sturtevant (1999 y 2004).

Blanchett performing the role of a news presenter as she recites art manifestos from Sturtevant (1999 and 2004)

It might strike the observer as a chaotic setting, but the display is thoughtfully structured for the spectator to be able to admire it from every corner. You can choose either to sit in front of each screen, or see the entire scene from different corners, getting a feel for the whole spectrum. Both the high quality of the imagery and Blanchett’s exceptional performances in every role submerge the spectator profoundly into the scene.

“Giving them all to a woman shows a feminism aspect, but also helps to free them from the art’s historical weight. I love the idea that all of these manifestos were bursting with testosterone, and a woman is performing them,” says Rosefeldt when explaining her choice of Blanchett for the roles.

Rage of the young artists
The audio mixes in the room, and you must make the effort and get closer if you wish to listen to a single one. Every 10-12 minutes all of the screens synchronise and together recite the epilogue: “Lebbeus Woods Manifesto from 1993”.  It’s  empowering – the strongest moment of the exhibition.

The declarations show the voice of a generation, that composes the passion and conviction of many young artists.

“Manifesto questions whether the words and sentiments have withstood the passage of time. Can they be applied universally? And how have the dynamics between politics, art and life shifted?” states the programme.

But read no more, and stop by O Space to discover ‘Manifesto’ by yourself.

Watch the ‘Manifesto’ trailer here:


You can find out more about O Space and its upcoming exhibitions on the website.

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