A Manifesto on Manifestos

an introduction to our new publication

I am excited to announce the opening of the Manifesto Fest publication!

This is a space for psychoanalytic manifestos, a place in which we can remember why we love psychoanalysis, and try to share this excitement with a wider world.

Psychoanalysis fosters a particular way of understanding the world: childhood, love, racism, political conflict, obesity, art, loneliness… These topics fill the printed papers and online news feeds yet rarely make use of psychoanalytic insight and knowledge. Perhaps you are also discontented with the statuesque in which analyst spend an inspiring and frustrating amount of time writing for one another, safely keeping their words isolated behind the subscription walls of PEP WEB?

So, while there is great value in carefully crafted clinical presentations, theoretical explorations, footnotes and citations, it is urgent for the well-being of psychoanalysis to learn to distill what the field can offer and why it matters. So I indulge in manifesto about manifestos, unabashedly trying to seduce you to try to use this mode of writing.

I realize this is not easy. The training of a psychoanalyst promotes quite the opposite mindset, one of reflection, nuance, non-judgment, a resistance to actions, an observing eye… Manifestos must be assured, forceful and convincing.

The word manifesto comes from two Latin origins: Manifestus: obvious and Manifesto: make public. Therefore the manifesto makes the obvious public.

Omnipotent and playful, manifestos were powerful tools of the avant-garde movements of the twentieth century. Think of the far reaching political effects of the Communist Manifesto written in 1848.

“At its most endearing” writes Mary Ann Caws, in the big yellow book titled “Manifestos — a Century of Isms,” “a manifesto has a madness about it. It is peculiar and angry, quirky, or downright crazed.” (P. x) “The manifesto is by nature a loud genre, unlike the essay… It calls for capital letters, loves bigness, and demands attention.” She describes the politics of the manifesto as “Nowness and Newness.”

The heyday of manifestos was the decade between 1909–1919 when Marinetti published The First Futurist’s Manifesto followed by Malevich, the Cubists, Dada and the Surrealists among others. They were published as pamphlets, posted on walls and showered like rain in public plazas. Manifestos are arrogant, they call for action, oppose the existing, demand change, sometimes they are even violent: “Leave Dada, Leave your Parents, Leave your Wife” called one.

Generally, Mary Ann Caws tells us, the manifesto stands alone. It does not lean-on or refer-to other texts. At times, a short sentence captures a big idea. No architect can forget Mies’s modernist “Less is More” or its provocative reversal by Robert Venturi into “Less is a Bore.” In fact, Caws writes, architects have adopted the manifesto style as their professional dialect.

Psychoanalysis has a unique body of knowledge which it uses to help its patients. But I believe it have the power to transform the way we view the individual, relationships, and society.

So let us indulge in this kind of omnipotent, playful speech and see where it takes us and how it might affect the public discourse.

We welcome manifesto submissions, 500–1000 words long.
Please email esther@studio-st.com.

Esther Sperber is the founder of Studio ST Architects, she writes and lectures on architecture and psychoanalysis.