Constructing a new world
History has, of course, seen many manifestos come and go. But the social transformations needed to lift societies out of crisis do not simply appear spontaneously. It is vital to break free from received wisdoms and stereotypes and work out solutions to problems that until now have appeared insoluble.
So we are proud to announce that our draft Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions goes live online today. The manifesto points to the contradictions within the capitalist system of production as the real causes of the ecological, economic and political crises that overshadow our world while proposing far-reaching solutions.
Revolutionary changes in history have been inspired by manifestos and declarations of one kind or another. You only have to think of Protestant reformer Luther’s 95 Theses nailed to a church door in 1517, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France in 1789, the Communist Manifesto of 1848 by Marx and Engels and the April Theses put forward by Lenin in 1917, to name but a few.
Thus, it is a happy coincidence that the life and work of a man who helped to instigate a cultural revolution in Europe is being celebrated in a major exhibition opening at Tate Modern this week. Theo Van Doesburg, who launched the magazine and the movement called De Stijl in 1917, was a Renaissance man. He was not only a painter, architect and designer, but also a writer and poet. Above all, he created an international network to change the course of art and life.
Van Doesburg, along with fellow painter Piet Mondrian, and other collaborators, worked for the possibility of a “deepened artistic culture” in which artists working in different fields would realise that they shared a common language. Tate Modern director Vicente Todolì and Edwin Jacobs, the curators, note that Van Doesburg “advocated collective enterprise rather than individualism”.
The Dutch artist sought to change not only the face of art, but the world itself. For him as for other avant-garde artists, what counted was how their art could promote new visions for life and society. Unlike Mondrian who has overshadowed him, Van Doesburg “saw art not on a singular course, but opening to multiple possibilities, as a bridge from the present to the future”.
Constructing a New World shows how the years between 1916 and the mid-1920s saw an unparalleled cultural flowering, spearheaded by a host of avant-garde magazines, sweep through Europe as designer-artists like Van Doesburg, El Lissitsky and Moholy Nagy travelled extensively, cross-fertilising each other’s countries and movements with innovations in all branches of the arts, including film, music and sculpture.
Modernism, just like the notion that revolutionary change is possible, has been much maligned and rejected over the past decades. The exhibition is a welcome chance to reassess it. Naturally, there was plenty of chaos, conflicts, falling outs and rows as different tendencies asserted themselves.
But the spirit of inquiry and collaboration, a multi-disciplinary approach towards human life and culture, the desire to use technology to provide a better life for the whole of society, a profound internationalism, the enthusiasm for scientific knowledge, the rejection of dogma and political censorship remain totally relevant.
It is in that same spirit that we ask you to participate and help widen the discussion about the Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions so that it becomes a real instrument to inspire political, social and cultural change.
A World to Win secretary
2 February 2010