Manfred Kirchheimer’s documentary, Art Is…The Permanent Revolution, examines the critical role that graphic artists play in raising the people’s consciousness about humankind. From subjects surrounding war and migration to religion and destruction, graphic artists have the ability to provoke and challenge the inner being. Although the graphic artists are both widely known and unknown, the commonality is that their artwork boldly tackles issues such as hypocrisy, absurdity, imprudence and mania in their respective generations. Some of the artwork was censored and/or banned during its era because of the uproar it stirred. Somehow, someway, the art survived as relevant and cutting edge.
The artwork embodies community tensions and conflicts that tend to spark a revolution or advance the revolution. The revolution can be seen as society’s breakthrough into new ideas and theories or to digression and decay. Whatever the reason behind creating the artwork, some artists take years to finish their masterpiece while other artists burn with passion to produce a work in the moment. Art IS…The Permanent Revolution begins with three contemporary American artists and a master printer providing introductory backgrounds of how they’d come to love their craft, who influenced their artwork, and some of their philosophies. Nostalgically speaking on the way things were, the aging artists and master printer appear to be producing work that is bordering extinction. This type of artwork (which requires exceptional skill) is by far more labor intensive in comparison to modern computer-generated graphic artistry. The film does not focus on artwork produced by computer graphic artists.
One artist mentions that despite how impactful her work, the compensation is meager. As a result, the artist must be creative in repurposing and recycling tools of the trade. The master printer indicates that his printer was custom-made and not many are around and operable. The audience witnesses the making of an etching, a woodcut and a lithograph. All three are stunning creations. Additionally, the audience can appreciate the meticulous planning required to make the first draft of work count as the final draft.
The documentary includes some narration on historical events that gave rise to the captivating work of Rembrandt, Goya, Picasso, Daumier, Kollwitz, Dix, Masereel, and Gropper, to name a few. Art IS…The Permanent Revolution becomes a film exhibition of more than 200 dramatic pieces of art in etching, woodcut and lithograph form. With that said, Kirchheimer’s love for artwork is plainly obvious. Nevertheless, the subject matter becomes arduous for an entire 82 minutes. If one of Kirchheimer’s goals was to reach a wider, general audience thereby educating them about the power and influence of art, a younger generation accustomed to sound bites, tweets and text message may not be so attentive. On the other hand, if a goal was to simply raise awareness, then mission accomplished.