Arts Manifesto

Around 2008, we began trying to do art differently. We formed the Army of the Broken Hearted as an arts collective that would take a particular approach – the school of artists as the school of prophets: forcing creative space in public space, so that social, political and spiritual realities and powers could be engaged by ordinary people in their shared spaces. Out of this came the following manifesto for a radical Christian arts movement.

  1. The prophetic school is concerned with its own moment in history.
  2. The prophetic school is concerned with how its own moment in history fits in the wider historical process.
  3. The prophetic school is concerned with its own people – that is, the people it manifests itself among.
  4. The practitioner tells the people’s story to the people and so reveals their identity as a people by virtue of their shared story. So the art of the prophetic school re-peopleises.
  5. The prophetic school distinguishes between the sheep and the shepherds, between the people and their leaders. They hold the shepherds accountable in the eyes of the sheep for their actions regarding the sheep. They energise the sheep towards a critical consciousness regarding themselves and their shepherds.
  6. The prophetic school tear down and it build up. It deconstructs the oppressions and illusions that hang over the people, and it construct the alternative community.
  7. The prophetic school aims to give solid form to the apparent and yet elusive power structures which oppress the people, since it is hard, as they say, to kill a phantom.
  8. The prophetic school of today asserts that a people who no longer participate in the creation of culture are, in that respect, a dead people. Therefore, the rich minority who hold the monopoly on the creation of culture through mass mediums in the name of profit are, in that sense, killing the people. This is the essence of mass culture.
  9. Therefore, the creation of culture must be restored to everday people outside the absorbing and monolithic structures of mass culture.
  10. Therefore, art itself must be wrestled free from the pacifying and compromised narratives of mass culture.
  11. The work of the prophetic school is forged in dialogue with God.
  12. The work of the prophetic school is forged in dialogue with others.
  13. The practitioner is the least important party in his/her own work. The art of the prophetic school is for God and for the people. Both, equally, necessarily. It is the relation between these two parties that definitively concerns the prophetic.
  14. On the other hand the practitioner is utterly indivisable from his/her work. They are not an impartial conduits for a message. They themselves are the message. The word they speak must be absorbed into their life and their life must be absorbed into the word they speak. This is the essence of authentic culture.
  15. The practitioner of the prophetic school probably has a day job. Their art must grow out of the common experience of the people. Their art cannot be pursued as a career path out of the common experience of the people. The prophetic aesthetic is for the people and of the people.
  16. The work of the prophetic school is not designed for dissemination via the mediums of mass culture. Its fulfilment is in its actual, local and vital manifestation, among the people who may be met and known by the practitioner. Any mediation of the work must be strictly understood as replication and not the work itself.
  17. The work of the prophetic school is not designed for consumption by a mass audience. The work of the prophetic school must always be for the edification of the people that the artist lives alongside, face to face, in dialogue. Family, friends, enemies, colleagues, and the other dwellers of their own towns and cities etc.
  18. The prophetic school treasures public space for its expression.
  19. The prophetic school treasures domestic space for its expression.
  20. The prophetic school does not treasure commercial space for its expression.
  21. Since the work of the prophetic school necessarily concerns the people, it is not to be merely received. It invites dialogue, response, and participation. The prophetic school seeks to pose questions to be answered and problems to be solved, regarding the moment of history that we occupy as a people. It invites everyday people back to the humanising commission – to create their own culture.
  22. The prophetic school begins and ends in God who precedes and outlasts the present empire and its constructs – that the oppressions and enslavements of our times might be subject not only to scrutiny but also to power, and that the Source of liberation might be different in kind to the source of oppression.