MANIFESTO // Jen Black

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I've been asked the Why. Why do I do this? Why am I making art after a long career of working for Brands and Commercial clients? Why now? 

Well, I've put some words to it that I hope you can relate to. It's a Manifesto, as they say. And I put it together for myself, to refer to in times of doubt, so that I don't lose track of the vision. 

As for the art itself, I hope to communicate that in separate posts through the breakdown of individual pieces. This here is just the Why. 



So here we go.

The life-long job search is now officially closed. In 2018 I applied to nearly hundred agencies and clients, internationally, and was either rejected, or rejected them. These were full-time jobs in existing infrastructures as a “Creative Director” or “Brand” Executive. Yet, I am a square peg in a round hole - nothing fits. I have too much experience for most of these jobs, and too much attitude for all of them. I can no longer grow in the industry that I have worked within for over two decades, and my opportunities will only shrink in years to come. I could feel with each interviewer the uncomfortable desire for me to conform - to be part of their system in some compromising and soul-destroying way.

I can’t conform. Not anymore, and it’s time I’m honest with myself. I’m bored to tears by UX and Product design, and if I must work commercially, I prefer brand-building campaign work. But even in that: the level of sanity is always tainted by abuse from within the organisation, and a neglect for my (and others') time and talent. I also learned that I haven’t much capacity to work with inexperienced, arrogant people who refuse to listen or collaborate. My tolerance and patience still need a lot of diligence, but I do not want to waste any more time training others to work their way up or to make brands big money. I may have to do this on occasion - but will do so for income purposes only.

This: I am going to further dedicate my life to making art and writing. I have to conquer what is now a 25-year-old fear that I won’t be able to make a living doing these things - these niches that make me happy. I was brainwashed in youth that it only amounts to suffering. Now, however, I intend to harness the tools that were not available to me in my youth to make it happen. I have now garnered the emotional intelligence and confidence that comes with age and experience. And I can use the internet, in its many forms, as a selling platform.

I’m an artist from New York that has had influences that most Millennials have never heard of. That’s no one’s fault, but I have to come to grips that I won’t be able to shake it. It’s time to bow at its altar. It’s time to be a maker, and have my own, proper business. No more compromises, no more begging to fit into places that won’t understand me, or put me in a corner. I don’t want to leave this earth knowing that I didn’t have some legacy behind me, whether people loved or hated it. I want to at least try and say I’ve failed than die knowing I actually *listened* to the people who warned me of the failure. I want to work with the truest of integrity. So here we go.

My love for the visual, the grid, the collage, the text will now have to culminate into serious work that will be a testament to my interests and an exhibition of my relationship to society. I will find a way to create, regularly. I will find ways of making the work visible, and where possible, lucrative. I want to make the complex visible. I want to make it enjoyable, and provocative. I want people to relate the work to my name. I want to get to know people through my and their art, and be a part of a community of dedicated makers.

This feels like a real change, a revolutionary act against my past lives and career. I must remind myself that actually, this isn’t all that different from what I’ve been doing, but a re-wiring of how I approach it. I will make things myself. I will assemble teams to make projects, myself. Because I can.

And no one will tell me that I can’t. And I will find ways to support myself, without relying on the commercial machine. In fact, I’d like to acquire the flexible, fluid life I always dreamed of. No more office prisons, no more dread of financial insecurity. Minimalism, self-respect, sobriety, and assertion will get me there, if nothing else. I want to travel, meet people around the world, work with other artists, and properly contribute to culture - not help brands activate more consumers. I have a mission, finally.

And the irony is: it's always been there. 



“Oh, watch me now.”  Patti Smith


“I shall create. If not a note, a hole. If not an overture, a desecration.”  Gwendolyn Brooks


 “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”   Henry Ford


“The regrets of yesterday and the fear of tomorrow can kill you.” — Liza Minnelli

POST EDIT: This article in i-D really sums up my concept here. 


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