The bird’s eye view of orderly placed tables is projected between a crackling fire and a cackling, shabby homeless man ranting on through a sellotaped loudspeaker as he paces the radomes of the former listening tower of Teufelsberg. Somewhere else beyond sight a monotonous dirge of a brass band can be heard alongside the soft caws of a crow, as well as the soft response of school children to teacher. The tension of the otherwise lightless room is immediate and enthralling, as the voice of thirteen different manifestations of Australian actress Cate Blanchett speak over one another. The installation room of Julian Rosefeldt‘s Manifesto feels like the wildest of lucid dreams.
The latest installation by the Berlin-based artist, curated by Anna-Catharina Gebbers and Udo Kittelmann at Hamburger Bahnhof, features thirteen looped short films running alongside one another with Cate Blanchett as the primary focus in each. Blanchett shares, through a range of contrasting characters, a plethora of manifestos that have been carefully woven into the scripts in a convincing and, at times, surreal way. Artists, architects, writers and filmmakers such as André Breton, Adrian Piper, Sol LeWitt, Tristan Tzara and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti all have their dogmas voiced with passion, lament, rumination and unnerving excitement in a range of scenes and settings.
Each of the locations, carefully picked by Rosefeldt, have no direct relation to one another; an element which helps strengthen the feeling of their independence. From a housing estate in what appears to be England, an Upper Middle Class Southern American dining room, a newsroom studio, an incineration plant, a children’s primary school and a vast lakeside landscape, each are able to effortlessly and seductively entice viewers to enter the worlds in which they are presented. Manifestations of Blanchett as a short-tempered, cigarette-toting choreographer and as a flowing blonde-haired news reporter are not unlike the roles many may be used to seeing her play. However, her roles as an aging factory worker, puppeteer and bearded homeless man were a real treat in their diversity and dedicated acting talent, mastery of accents and hours of work by the hair and makeup team. Possibly the most surreal scene was that of her as an American housewife and mother, which features the carving of a gaunt looking roasted bird with shears, only to have its opened carcass filled with gravy soon after.
Without warning, each of the thirteen films align in twenty-something seconds worth of synchronized speech, all spoken or chanted in the same precise musical note, which is stunning in its directional accuracy and jarring, robotic quality, reminiscent of the same precision seen in Sam Taylor Wood’s short film, Pent Up (1996). The apex of each of the thirteen manifestos rings out over one another, as each version of Blanchett addresses the camera directly, before reverting back into their respective characters and lives.
Manifesto, which runs until July 10th, is a chance to experience the voices, passions and ideologies of so many that have contributed to the worlds of art and literature, re-contextualized poetically and emotionally, with a cinematic force that rarely comes from visual artists.