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Cate Blanchett in Manifesto: 13 films and raunchy humour #hf17

In the dark Middle Ages, an artist was still sometimes quartered for being out of line. In the 19th century, those lines were no longer important. In the early 20th century, artists started deciding for themselves where the lines were and punished those who did not stick to them. It was the time of artists' manifestos.

Cate Blanchett, the top Australian actress who some may only know as an elf in Lord of the Rings, can now be experienced on thirteen screens at once in Manifesto. An ongoing show at the Holland Festival. And all fans should go and see it. Even though the lyrics are all about art and what it can, may and especially should do.

Good heart

To be clear, the Holland Festival has long since ceased to be highbrow and inaccessible. It once was. Thanks to Ruth Mackenzie, the artistic director from England, for a few years now it has just been beautiful, good, fierce and sometimes totally incomprehensible but all coming from a good heart. Punk and folk theatre, it's all possible. And now, therefore, Cate Blanchett.

Cate Blanchett has been asked by video artist Julian Rosenfeldt for a project in which he has brought together just about every artist's manifesto of the past 120 years. Artists, he told the opening of his project on Saturday, are transverse thinkers who can sometimes sit perfectly on the zeitgeist. Artist credos from 1932 suddenly sound excitingly contemporary, as if they could have been written yesterday. And sometimes they also sound as if they were ridiculous back then.


This is all possible because the video artist's work is of extremely high quality, but it is even more possible because he gives Cate Blanchett a starring role in all the films, which they are. She has a presence, an aura you would gladly travel halfway around the world for. Together with Julian Rosenfeldt, she has given the manifestos she quotes from a sharp relativisation. Sometimes they are thick wood, such as a manifesto on architecture spoken by Blanchett while playing a crane operator in a waste incinerator.

Despite, or rather thanks to all this relatability, the total of 13 mega-videos comes across as extraordinarily impressive. Nor is it about whether you understand, or even comprehend, all the lyrics. It is enough to know that it is about the future, about hope, or indeed despair. It is mostly about what we have been shouting at each other all these years about what the future should be. Or become. And that at some point you understand we also thought a hundred years ago that the West was at its end, or that a fantastic new era was about to break out.

And so it is Cate Blanchett who manages to bring it all together. Down to the pore.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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