Manifesta 10 coming to the Hermitage Museum

The itinerant Manifesta, a gargantuan European Biennal of Contemporary Art, is to hold its tenth edition at the sprawling State Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2014.
It is to be a special event, marking the 20th anniversary of Manifesta, which is unique for its distinctly unique arrangement. It was conceived with the idea that it would not be held in one static location.
Instead, every two years, it has set up base in cities like Rotterdam (1996), Luc Luxembourg (1998), Frankfurt (2002), San Sebastian (2004), Trentino-South Tyrol (2008) and Limburg (2012).
The Hermitage, which is one of the world’s largest and oldest museums, was selected because of its “critical intellectual and historical relationship with East and West Europe”.
Naturally, this has always struck a chord with Manifesta, which, as discussed above, considers itself to be the biennial of and for the entire continent. The organisers of the fair describe it as a “meeting of anniversaries and shared historical relationships”.
“We are excited that the Manifesta 10 jubilee edition will be hosted by the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg,” said Hedwig Fijen, founding director of the biennial.
“This partnership of Manifesta with its roving nature, its innovative curatorial methodology and experimental artistic practices with such an influential historical museum as the Hermitage is unprecedented.”
It will be some celebration. That it is being held in Russia on its symbolic anniversary is noteworthy. Manifesta is, after all, a product of a post-Cold War era Europe, supposedly the vindication of democracy after a long and bloody battle.
While that has evidently not been the case, the history of humanity still playing out with the same kind of uncertainty that has been the ironic norm of past civilisations, there was a rebirth of sorts following the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall.
What has come out of it is a united Europe, albeit one that is held together by the lightest of threads. As Manifesta notes, the new social, cultural and political reality that has emerged was good, but then again, the global financial crisis in 2008 put an end to any shared optimism.
“Manifesta was built up as a platform for dialogue in between the East and the West,” informed Viktor Misiano, a Russian art critic, curator and current chair of the Manifesta Foundation.
“Reaching St. Petersburg Manifesta will find itself in the country of an extreme European East and in the city that was conceived as its extreme Western outpost. Manifesta has always been seeking new places, their genius, their particularity and their historical, cultural and political complexity.”
This is definitely a bold partnership. St. Petersburg has always been a complex city, Mr Misiano noted. This was true throughout its history and it is still true today. Hosting Manifesta will be a challenge, but an exciting one.
It’ll be interesting to see how Russian authorities play their cards. Under Vladimir Putin, the country has re-established what it would argue is its natural place as one of the most powerful nations in the world and restored confidence in its people. However, it has become increasingly conservative.
This, of course, might jar against the philosophies of Manifesta, the trailblazer that it already is. The event has established itself as one of the most distinct fairs of its kind, an identity it has been key to forge itself. It strives to keep out of the leading centres of artistic production, opting instead for “fresh and fertile terrain for the mapping of new cultural topography”.
“Inherent to Manifesta’s nomadic character is the desire to explore the psychological and geographical territory of Europe, referring both to borderlines and concepts,” the organisers have explained.
“This process aims to establish closer dialogue between particular cultural and artistic situations and the broader, international fields of contemporary art, theory and politics in a changing society.”
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