Workshop Outline

Public Philosophy: A Manifesto Workshop
A PSi Performance and Philosophy working group contribution to
PSi 16: Performing Publics

Co-ordinators: Beth Hoffmann and Laura Cull


From Latin, manifestare: “to make public,” "to reveal, disclose, clarify"
From Italian, manifesto (1644): "public declaration explaining past actions and announcing the motive for forthcoming ones," originally "proof"; from Latin, manifestus (see manifest)

Etymologically, the manifesto has immediate associations with performing and the public. Manifestos are traditionally understood to involve putting ideas on show, making thoughts conspicuous, or with publicising a particular philosophy or worldview. In turn, as Martin Puchner has noted, the terms manifesto and theatre are bound together by an ‘alliance in visibility’. Both manifesto and theatre ‘refer to the act of making visible: “manifesto” is derived from the Latin verb manifestare, which means “to bring into the open, to make manifest” and “theatre” from the Greek theatron, “a place of seeing”’ (Puchner 2002: 449).

Puchner has also discussed the performative nature of the manifesto, as that which construes words as having the power to change the world, rather than merely represent it. In particular, he suggests, the manifesto wants to manifest a ‘futurist performativity’ in which ‘the present act of revolt’ – the manifesto performed – is understood to mark ‘the beginning of a new future’.

Having been much beloved by the historical avant-garde, and subsequently critiqued for its totalizing ambitions, the manifesto now is enjoying something of a revival. Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Manifesto Marathon at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2008, for instance, showed little interest in irony. Likewise, Critical Art Ensemble have celebrated the speed of the manifesto in relation to the slowness of the book (CAE 2000: 140).

The PSi Performance and Philosophy working group invites participation and contributions to A Manifesto Workshop to be held at PSi 16 in Toronto.

This workshop will explore the dimensions of the manifesto’s performativity:
• an act of self-situating and self-explicating;
• writing towards an invisible public or a people-to-come;
• as a critical practice;
• thinking the manifesto as a genre vs. the manifesto as a highly contextualized act;

Our exploration will commence with a series of interrelated questions:
• can we parse the different registers of visibility the manifesto mobilizes?
• what is the manifesto’s relationship with the hidden, the subaltern?
• how can we understand its seductive resonance as well as the philosophical anxieties that it carries with it for those who wish to engage it in the 21st century?
• can our work with the manifesto help expose the kinds of publics that our “performance studies community” addresses/fails to address?

The workshop will operate in two parts: (1) Seminar with sub-groups who will read around prior to arrival at the conference — and (2) Presentations in manifesto form. In particular, the co-ordinators are interested in facilitating a “relay” of manifestos prior to the conference, such that we might perform a public manifesto “conversation” between multiple parties. In this instance, a manifesto could be a letter, object, image, or any combination of these that can be passed along to another for a response.

Beth Hoffmann: ude.umg|2amffohb#ude.umg|2amffohb
Laura Cull:||lluc.arual

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License