Andrea Liu: Performative Writing: Manifesto as Futuristic Speech Act

Manifestos are texts singularly invested in doing things with words; they are interventions. An intervention is predicated on action, interjection into a situation, immediate reconfiguration of relationships, as opposed to ‘representation.’ In his book “Poetry of the Revolution; Marx, Manifestos, and the Avante Garde,” Harvard Theatre & Comparative Literature Professor Martin Puchner describes the manifesto as a “futuristic speech act.” He draws on J. L. Austin’s “speech act theory,” or speech that surpasses the realm of mere representation or abstraction, and actually executes an action in real life. Puchner argues that the manifesto is directed at an audience member that does not yet exist—the manifesto is a “speech act” which must performatively instanciate a future social condition in which the person for whom the manifesto was written will exist. One of Puchner’s most ingenious claims is that a manifesto is not merely superstructure, but it is also the base. In Marx’s terms, the base is the actual means of production whereas the superstructure is merely the cultural production superimposed on top. For him, a manifesto is not merely a description of a revolution, it views itself as in instrument of that revolution. This talk looks at the performative operation of manifestos, including “The Glitch Moment(um)” (Institute of Network Cultures, 2011) by Dutch visual artist Rosa Menkman. Glitch art is a movement that coalesced in the mid-2000‘s at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, rejecting the impeccable cleanliness of digital art and design. Instead it embraces the corruption or messy perversion of technological progress through short circuits or glitches. Menkman is almost evangelist in her advocacy of glitch art’s critical subversive potential. This talk looks at the performative operations of her manifesto and how she conflates modernist discourses of ‘newness’ with postmodernist discourses of ‘the death of the author’ in her advocacy for glitch art.


Andrea Liu is a New York/Berlin-based art critic & artist. She was awarded artist residences at Atlantic Center for the Arts, Banff Centre, Art & Law Program, Centrale Fies Liveworks Performance Act Award, Ox-Bow, MFAH CORE, and is a fellow at Center for Experimental Museology. She gave talks at Centre for Postdigital Cultures (UK), Royal Central School of Drama and Speech (UK), Society for Artistic Research Conference (UK), Yale University Whitney Humanities Center, Sorbonne VALE (Voix Anglophones Littérature et Esthétique), CTM Festival (Transmediale Berlin), Geffen Museum (Los Angeles Printed Matter Artist Books Conference), NYU Performance Studies Conference, Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center. She received her undergrad education from Yale University & was curator of Counterhegemony: Art in a Social Context.