Anyone who’s seen one of Cate Blanchett’s numerous, iconic films knows that the actress is a woman of a million faces. And if her storied acting career isn’t testament enough to that fact, Manifesto, an installation by German artist Julian Rosefeldt, which just opened at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney, Australia, should serve as definitive proof that there’s no role Blanchett can’t take on.
In the video piece, Manifesto, Rosefeldt explores the great actress' mutability, transforming her into 13 completely distinct characters. Blanchett touches the full spectrum of humanity, from a homeless man with a scraggly beard, to a perfectly done-up news anchor who interviews herself, to a conservative 50s housewife bent in prayer over her dinner, seated alongside her real life husband Andrew Upton and their three sons.
Throughout the film, Blanchett exclusively delivers a series of monologues composed of mixed and matched lines taken from, “declarations penned by the futurists, dadaists, and situationists, to the musings of individual artists, architects, dancers, and filmmakers such as Sol LeWitt, Yvonne Rainer, and Jim Jarmusch,” all as a means of “ultimately questioning the role of the artist in society today,” according to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, who partially commissioned the piece.
In an interview that’s part of the exhibition catalog, Rosefeldt explains his interest in this form of artistic and intellectual rebellion, particularly the pieces of writing that came out of the early 20th century: “The art scene at the beginning of the last century was still very small and those writers of art manifestos were again a minority within this tiny art scene. To be heard, artists needed to yell. The art scene today is a global network and business with diverse means of expression. The manifesto as a medium of artistic articulation has become less relevant in a globalized art world. You could say that the interview, the podium discussion, the talk show, the dialectically-led discourse have replaced the former loud bellowing sole claim of the manifesto.”
Though the installation premiered at Melbourne's ACMI last year, this marks the first time it will be shown in the actress’ Sydney hometown. So while all of us non-Australian gallery-goers who’d like to witness this feat of thespianism are fresh out of luck until the day this show makes its way stateside, we’ll all just have to make do with watching this 10-second teaser trailer again and again and continue to wonder over the endless transformative prowess of Cate Blanchett.
Manifesto will be on display at the Art Gallery of NSW through November 13.