A soft Scottish accent reads the opening monologue of the 1996 cult classic, Trainspotting. Mark Renton’s monologue acts as a satirical manifesto for the life of the Edinburgh based group of heroin addicts; they’re criticising contemporary society that surrounds them, seeing the expectations of the everyday as mundane and are viciously critical in a way that can only occur by being on the edge of the zeitgeist. They finish the manifesto by demanding people, after throwing away the notions of raising kids, being financially secure, owning a home, to “Choose Life”. The reader is left to decide what this means.
21 years later, T2 Trainspotting is released, reprising the characters and story. With this, comes a revised manifesto from Renton, demonstrating in particular the development of technology and the way in which people use it as a drug; instant gratification, seeking approval from strangers, online revenge and societal dependence and addiction. The revision of the manifesto ends with the same quote, to “Choose Life”, but this ending has a slightly more positive angle, telling people to love those around them and their life.
“Choose Life” can be seen as cynical or ambitious, as immature or as innovative. It takes the form of a loose poem, yet forms a solid, almost aggressive manifesto. It is written by a heroin addict, criticising contemporary culture and society from a position that lays outside these circles. It is a beautifully written piece of satire, and it reminds me of a company called ‘Good Fucking Design Advice’, where the incredibly direct advice is explicitly printed onto mugs, shirts, posters etc., demanding that designers rethink their process and forming a manifesto for the act of designing.
GFDA was clearly inspired by Trainspotting, and like Renton’s monologue, will will eventually change to accommodate new technologies and ways of thinking. GFDA definitely has a clear-cut image of what a designer should be and, whether or not you agree with the definition, the sheer audacity to create a manifesto of how to be this elusive figure is entertaining at the least, and transcendent at the most:
Regarding built architecture, like Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth and ‘Good Fucking Design Advice’, “Choose Life” has little relevance. However, the message is one of satire and provocation, inviting the reader to reflect on their own life. Stating your intentions are fine, but as creatives, why should architectural manifestos not be satirical, and not question the very design of writing such a document, as “Choose Life” does?
The manifesto developing over time and drawing on technological developments and societal criticisms is applicable to a commentary on design, where the institutional environment is reactive to the geopolitics, technology and fashions of the time. Using “Choose Life” as a reference point, why would you write a static manifesto?
Choose a reactionary standpoint. Choose to allow your manifesto to grow, to look at the moment critically, then ten minutes later change your mind.