The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
With war looming in the background, this manifesto, dated July 25, 1938, and signed by André Breton and Diego Rivera, expresses a particular point of view regarding the concept of freedom of expression for the artist and the man of science—“the fruit of precious chance”—unfettered by the dictates of a totalitarian State, such as the Soviet Union and its bloc. In this document, Breton and Rivera announce that, as far as art is concerned, they are in favor of establishing “from the very beginning[,] an anarchist regime of individual freedom”; they propose “total freedom in art” as a suggested template for the revolution. Their ideas are diametrically opposed to the Nazi fascists’ concept of “degenerate art” [Entartete Kunst] and the “fascist” label that Stalinism attaches to all unbounded creativity. This libertarian attitude would subsequently inspire the founding of a group of artists and intellectuals—the Federación Internacional del Arte Revolucionario Independiente (FIARI) [International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art]—whose modest beginnings at local conventions gradually led to national gatherings that were eventually consolidated into a world congress.
This manifesto was hatched in Mexico by three men: the political refugee León Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein, 1879–1940), his host Diego Rivera (1886–1957), and the visiting French poet André Breton (1896–1966) who had been invited to give a series of lectures. The ultimate reason for Breton’s trip to Mexico, however, was unquestionably to make contact with the former Soviet leader and with Rivera in order to develop a platform for revolutionary cultural activities designed to neutralize the control mechanisms instituted by Stalinist cultural organizations throughout the world. The objective was to undermine its doctrine—the so-called socialist realism—through the efforts of the Federación Internacional del Arte Revolucionario Independiente (FIARI) [International Federation of Independent Revolutionary Art]. For tactical reasons Trotsky did not sign the manifesto, despite instigating it and being deeply involved in its writing. The subsequent political falling-out between Rivera and Trotsky put an end to the idea of establishing an American chapter of the FIARI; the branch in the United States was thus isolated following the outbreak of the world war that blocked the European war front despite attempts to create a North American umbrella proposed by the French Surrealists led by Breton.