Theo van Doesburg’s, László Moholy-Nagy’s, Hans Arp’s, and Ivan Puni’s “A Call for an Elementarist Art” (1921)
Translated from the Dutch by Nicholas Bullock.
From The Tradition of Constructivism.
(Da Capo Press. New York, NY: 1974).
• • •
We love the brave discovery, the regeneration of art. Art that is the expression of the forces of an epoch. We therefore demand the expression of our own time, by an art that can be only of our making, that did not exist before us and cannot continue after us — not a passing fashion, but an art based on the understanding that art is always born anew and does not remain content with the expression of the past. We pledge ourselves to elementarist art. It is elemental because it does not philosophize, because it is built up of its own elements alone. To yield to the elements of form is to be an artist. The elements of art can be discovered only by an artist. But they are not to be found by his individual whim; the individual does not exist in isolation, and the artist uses only those forces that give artistic form to the elements of our world. Artists, declare yourselves for art! Reject the styles. We demand freedom from the styles to reach the STYLE. Style is never plagiarism.
This is our manifesto: seized by the dynamism of our time, we proclaim the revision in our outlook brought about by the tireless interplay of the sources of power that mold the spirit and the form of an epoch and that allow art to grow as something pure, liberated from usefulness and beauty, as something elemental in everybody.
We proclaim elemental art! Down with the reactionary in art!
Berlin, October 1921 [From De Stijl (Amsterdam), Vol. IV, No. 10, 1922]