Scott King, artist/designer
Artist, graphic designer and writer Scott King published The Debrist Manifesto this summer, a personal treatise about embracing failure.
Scott embodies the way art and design cross over today—his art has been exhibited internationally, while his graphic design has featured on projects for Michael Clark Dance Company, Pet Shop Boys, Saint Etienne and Suicide amongst many others. He has also been art director for i-D magazine, creative director for Sleazenation magazine, and is a contributing editor to Arena Homme+ magazine.
The Debrist Manifesto is a tour de force text about the relationship between the internal dialogue of the artist and the exterior art world. Scott shares the inspirations behind the Manifesto, and his upcoming live version.
What are you up to this Monday morning
I am rehearsing at Camden Art Centre—I’m doing a ‘live’ version of The Debrist Manifesto in Berlin for three nights starting on 12 October… this is as part of ‘The Sun Machine Is Coming Down’ festival at the incredible ICC building in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf… so I’m honing my act, or trying to. I’ve been working with Paul Plowman and his son Frank, they’ve developed this voice responsive artwork for me, which is great.
I’ll then be doing a version of the manifesto ‘live’ at Camden Art Centre, London, on 11 November… I think tickets are on sale soon for that one.
Describe your desk and your work space.
I work from home, in Highbury—I look out on to our back garden, it is usually overgrown… and there are clothes pegs on the ground… I pick them up, nobody else does.
Which magazine do you first remember?
The Shooting Times. My dad used to get it delivered. He’s very keen on shooting and fly-fishing… I thought nothing of it, but I just looked it up now as I’d completely forgotten about The Shooting Times until you asked me this question. Strange really, very wrong by today’s standards… a whole magazine dedicated to duck murder.
Do you hava favourite Manifesto by another writer?
Yes, ‘Manifesto of the Theatre of Cruelty’, Antonin Artaud, 1932. Artaud was, and still is, considered to be insane, and perhaps he was, but many of his ideas are completely and only about telling the truth. I like that.
Describe The Debrist Manifesto in three words.
Failure is Success.
The cover of the special collector’s edition of the Manifesto, with gold foil logo.
The manifesto is a brilliant mix of parody and seriousness; is it a ‘performance’ to be enjoyed, a personal statement, or a genuine manifesto to be adopted and followed?
It is a genuine manifesto—it isn’t a parody at all. It is a serious reconsideration of what might be if we stopped wanting what it was we thought we wanted… if we stopped putting ourselves at the mercy of Cultural Gatekeepers… if we dared to STOP and start again.
Your work with text is usually super-succinct, but a manifesto by its very nature is word-heavy. Was it difficult to write?
It was incredibly easy to write, it kind of wrote itself. I did the bulk of it in two days… but then, of course, fiddled around with phrases and footnotes for two months.
How much care and attention went into the type and design?
Well, I did the initial design—with Rhys Atkinson—we had a few attempts. One idea was to set it all in Minion Pro… you know, a kind of off-the-shelf-everyfont… but this looked too weak.
Several type experts discouraged me from using Futura Bold Condensed, because it is ‘too manifesto-like’, too unoriginal—but I wanted it to look like a manifesto… partly because it isn’t like a normal manifesto, it has stories and asides and detours in it, so I wanted it to look rigid.
In the end, Richard Massey stepped in and made the final design from what me and Rhys had done—which was very kind of him—his attention to detail was brilliant, he gave it a lot of authority, by making it so visually precise.
Share one piece of advice for somebody wanting to launch their own publication.
At least try to get your money back.
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
More rehearsing, I am trying to transform myself into Lenny Bruce, rather than a middle-aged man in glasses who fluffs his lines. There’s a lot of work to do.
Scott King, The Debrist Manifesto at ‘The Sun Machine is Coming Down’, Berliner Festspiele, 12-14 October 2021: