MEDA302 – Compositionist Manifesto

Reflecting on this weeks reading An Attempt at a “Compositionist Manifesto” by Bruno Latour, is an interesting perspective on the current art zeitgeist. “Today, the avant-garde’s have all but disappeared” Latour (2010, p.473) states, and for the most part I agree with him. Having studied modern art throughout the 20th century and part of the 19th century it is clear how art has changed in a forward motion, branching out of course, but a defined path. But today, in a post postmodern world, it seems unclear where the art world is headed, any strong and profound movements that are trying to break the mould. This is where the compositionists manifesto steps in, asking us to rework our perceptions of art making.

Latour (2010, p. 475) discusses critique as something limited by utopia and the certainty of a world beyond, whereas in contrast, compositionism has no world beyond and relies on immanence. This a bit to unpack, however the way I understand it is that there is this ‘veil’ of sorts and that as arts we are trying to rip open the curtain and unveil what is beyond. Through critique we address how well we have uncovered the unknown. But compositionism can fail in the task of unveiling but still be constructive. Latour speaks of ‘universality’ and how we search for it without believing that it is there.

“For a compositionist, nothing is beyond dispute. And yet closure has to be achieved. But it is achieved only by the slow process of composition and compromise, not by the revelation of the world beyond”

By understanding this, as an artist, instead of all individually reaching to this beyond in our own personal way, we collectively build upon one another, uncovering more territory into the ‘beyond’ but by doing so we continue to ask more question. This is my interpretation of the text, and I believe it to be incredible relevant in this ‘remix generation’ and in particular to the death of the author.

Locating what I’m doing as an artist regarding this piece is that the current zeitgeist of art is intangible and compositionism is a way to make sense of the chaos. The chaos can be a guide for us to see our work not as something that should necessarily achieve a goal and uncover something previously unknown, but as something that simply communicates a thought or concept and provides a space to explore for others. It felt like a movement that was meant to be liberating, instead of trying to find the next big revolutionary avant-garde movement, we instead see it as mode of exploration, for experimenting to be an achievement in itself.


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