Houdinis of Bewilderland, Part 4
Writing a manifesto can be a galvanising act. The manifesto itself can be a work of art (e.g. the dazzling typographical bombshells of the Dada-ists and the Futurists). Even if such bold visioning and sometimes bombastic declarations are destined to crash and burn, Icarus-like, they can be in themselves creative acts of defiance against the apathy, entropy or nihilism of modern life – an affirmation of art’s relevance and vitality. Whenever a group of kindred spirits get together and articulate their core values in a cri-de-coeur, whether it is an artists’ statement for an exhibition, acts of guerrilla art (the topless protests of Femen[i] or the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot[ii]) or a printed gauntlet thrown down in defiance of the world, a manifesto is born. Sometimes it can be a solitary creative act that somehow epitomizes a whole movement (as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl; Bob Dylan’s ‘Times They Are a-Changing’; Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’; or David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’). An inspiring approach to the current ecological crisis[iii] is this creative response from small press, Awen Publications, originally devised by storytelling group, Fire Springs[iv] (of which I am a member). An Ecobardic Manifesto: a vision for the arts in a time of environmental crisis (Awen, 2008):
We believe it’s time for the arts to respond whole-heartedly to the ecological challenges facing our planet. In place of the commodification of alienation, we need to celebrate connection; in place of intensifying polarisation between entrenched dogmatisms, we need to foster respect for otherness and diversity; in place of self-interested denial, we need to get people engaged with ecological reality.
How can creative artists do this? As a start, we propose, through the application of five ‘ecobardic’ principles:
(1) connecting with one’s own roots in time and place while celebrating the diversity of other cultures and traditions;
(2) daring to discern and critique in order to provide cultural leadership;
(3) respecting and dynamically engaging with one’s audience as a creative partner;
(4) cultivating the appreciation of beauty through well-wrought craft;
(5) re-enchanting nature and existence as filled with significance.
This Ecobardic Manifesto is, firstly, a mission statement for ourselves as a group of performing artists and writers, and for our publisher. But it’s much more than that. It aims to draw attention to groundbreaking ‘ecobardic’ work that many other artists have already done. And, by making our artistic intention conscious and public, we hope to provoke and inspire yet others. From little acorns, mighty oaks may grow.[v]
Next: Scratch Culture
This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions. Check it out. Available from: http://www.doggerland.info/doggershop
Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.