Manifesto puts Cate Blanchett in 12 roles

A new exhibition at Veletržní palác features the actress in a room of video screens

The National Gallery opened five new installations at Veletržní palác for the fall season.

The highlight is Manifesto, a series of videos by Berlin artist Julian Rosefeldt starring actress Cate Blanchett in 13 videos shown simultaneously. She appears on screen as different characters in 12, and as a voice in the remaining one.

The other projects include sculptures and installations by František Skála, a historical multimedia piece called Biafra of Spirit: Third World Students in Czechoslovakia, works by a Portuguese artist called Introducing Pedro Henriques: Fasting, and pieces from a competition of European student art called Start Point Prize 2017.

The works by František Skála are in a section of Veletržní palác called Hall A that was not previously used. The works will be a new long-term exhibition. The others that opened are short-term.

Manifesto takes hours to see properly, and isn't the sort of thing you can just glance at and move on. Actress Cate Blanchett shows here versatility playing a homeless man, a choreographer, various office and industrial workers, a puppet master, two newscasters, a school teacher, and housewife and other characters.

The settings are equally diverse, ranging from an abandoned brutalist structure to a high-tech laboratory clean room.

The video monitors are at odd angles throughout a darkened room. It is possible to see two or three videos at once, but not all of them. The sound comes from small speakers above the screen so depending on where you are you can hear one or several commentaries at once.

The videos seem to be all running independently, starting and ending at different times. But they are coordinated. Every so often they all synch up, with all the Cate Blanchett characters looking at the camera at once and directly addressing the audience in a strange monotone.

There is one screen that serves as a start point, showing a burning fuse, and after that the viewer is on his or her own as to how to approach the exhibit.

The monologues that Blanchett delivers in each video clip come from artist's manifestos, and the character is meant to embody some of the notions. The art movements include Dada, Fluxus, Futurism, Dogma 95. Famous authors quoted include André Breton, Jim Jarmusch, Werner Herzog, Karl Marx, Wassily Kandinsky and Claes Oldenberg. The videos were shot over 12 days in and around Berlin.

Julian Rosefeldt's studio manager introduced the exhibition at the opening. She gave a brief history of the artists work and its evolution. Manifesto marks a turning point in Rosefeldt's work. Previously he started with examinations of film genres, exploring and dismantling its function. “Spoken word at first did not appear at all in his works. And now with Manifesto for the first time it is the language and the written word that was the starting point of his project,” she said.

“Manifesto developed when Julian was reading basically every artist's manifesto he could find. Out of about 60 chosen texts Julian edited and reassembled a written collage of manifestos from the 19th to the 21st centuries,” she said. The visual aspect of the videos at first is quite captivating but the texts and ideas that are more engaging, she added. “Manifestos are mental sparks whose purpose is to cause an explosion,” she said.

“Out of Cate Blanchett's monologues you hear the voice of angry, rebellious artists that stood up for the ideas and beliefs that are to change the world,” she said, adding that the similarity of the manifestos is most evident when the characters raise their voices at the same time.

She called the piece a “manifesto of manifestos” and said it puts the role of the artist in the spotlight. She concluded by Jim Jarmusch quoting filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard saying it is not where you take things from but where you take them to.

The entry to the Manifesto installation also includes several bound books of manifestos including Dada and Futurist proclamations in glass cases.

The works by František Skála in the new long-term exhibition are also worth checking out. He recently had a large show at Wallenstein Riding School and made the tree-cafe that was in Malostranské náměstí. Part of the new exhibition is time capsules made of objects he created from assembled materials. These are in a small room called Musaion, shaped like a classical temple. Another is a room marked “private” with a sign asking people to respect the privacy of the occupant, while of course inviting people to look at the same time. It is a bedroom for some sort of giant sleeping slug.

Biafra of Spirit: Third World Students in Czechoslovakia is geared for people with an interest in Cold War-era history as it explores and overlooked topic with videos, posters and other texts. This one also takes quite a bit of time to experience properly.

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