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Manifesta 14: The European Nomadic Biennial breaks away from the art world

Prishtina, Kosovo 2022 – a closer look into the local complexity and how the arts and culture integrate with urban development: Ii conversation with Hedwig Fijen on Manifesta 14

The core of Manifesta as a community event

Since its inception in the 1990’s, Manifesta’s mission has been from signal to substance; creating meaningful, lasting impact. As a unique biennial that changes locations every two years, Manifesta Founding Director Ms. Hedwig Fijen states that this is the origin of nomadism. When arriving in a city, Manifesta is invited with a very specific task; cities task them to do something that they think Manifesta as a facilitator and an incubator for change can achieve.

Before the biennale biennial takes place, Manifesta investigates and researches the urban planning of the city. This year it is particularly difficult as Kosovo isn’t recognisedrecognized by tons of countries, thus they don’t existsexist on Google Maps or similar platforms. The research takes place through citizen assemblies and all forms of research. As a resultresult, it is imperative to Manifesta to have contact with  the most important communities and community and neighbourhoodneighborhoods leaders. This is also done through collaboration with architecture and sociology students, who do a deep dive into the issues of the global city. 

The citizen assembly was however born a few years ago at the previous Biennale in 2020 in Marseille. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Movement, Me Too and the Mouvement des gilets jaunes, Ms. Fijen felt like it was important to listening to and as well as integratinge with the local community. This is where the more participatory, bottom upbottom-up methodology started. 

It became less about imposing ideas from a monolithic perspective and much more about the interests and needs of the people in the communities who form a part of Manifesta. «Citizen Assembly is a deliberate democracy.». It is an alternative curatorial approach –- Manifesta wants to act in close collaboration with the art and architecture communityies, individuals, and the art community, architecture communities, the neighbourhoodsneighborhoods they’re working in instead ofand  not invitinge curators to do a top down concept and putting it in the public domain.

The influence of previous Manifesta’s

Manifesta 13 (2020) was the most complicated challenging one yet according to Ms. Fijen. Taking place in Marseille, just as everything was opening, the world was closing due to lockdowns. The biennale biennial had to close one month earlier than originally anticipated, but there is one project that she believes will influence the Manifestas to come. 

Troisième Rue,; a project in a deprived neighbourhoodneighborhood,  and it was set up on the basis of invisible archives. Individuals from the education department created a series of presentations with associations from the neighbourhoodsthe districts who that were never respected enough to be shown their in archives.
It was then established that this location has been was taken over by these communities, and with thanls to the funds of Manifesta it is still existings. 

AlsoAlso, during Manifesta 13, while the Des Gilets Jaunes was taking place, Manifesta the fair organisedorganized some citizen assemblies and the new government took note, copying the model to the political situation in Marseille. A cultural advisory board of citizens was establishedestablished, and it is still active today. Ms. Fijen believes that this is a symbolic intervention that took place during the biennalebiennial, which has now been adapted by politicians.

On the other handhand, Manifesta 12 took place in Palermo in 2018. It is shown in a study that was done with OMA, that for the last 60 sixty years Palermo was branded as a city of Mafia in film and media, but after Manifesta came and showed a different perspective of the city with heritage and cultural dynamics, the narrative changed and tourism arose with by 21%.

Manifesta 14 and the city of Prishtina

Manifesta has a geographical urgency, therefore it  and cannot stay in western cities that are already established and economically and culturally represented. Rather they look for cities that have a need for Manifesta. This is one of the reasons why Manifesta chose Prishtina for Manifesta 14. The city is mainly known for the genocide and the war, but that was 20 twenty years ago. Manifesta aims to tell a different story and to change the narrative by creating a collective memory about the city.  According to Ms. Fijen, the size of the city enables Manifesta to better reach out to different communities. 

Manifesta is also addressing some political issues including the visa liberalisationliberalization of Kosovo. It is contradictory that Manifesta is European and has been invited to Prishtina, inviting all the artists, architects, sociologists, biologists and anthropologists to Prishtinathe city, yet the Kosovars are not invited to Europe. The visa regulations are rigid and one of the artistic, symbolic interventions that Manifesta aims to make is: w; Why is the are the  visa liberalisationsliberalization not taking place? 

«Like seeds, like trees, like animals, ; why are these human beings not allowed to travel? There is a migration of plants, seeds, pollution, a migration of everything, except for human beings».

Diversity and inclusivity: tThe Western Balkans Project

An integral objective of the project is to open up the Western Balkans, creating a project that breaks the confines of isolated cultural infrastructures and networks. While mapping out Prishtina, the Manifesta team discovered that there isn’t a lot of inter regionalinter-regional context or communication. Manifesta works according to a diversity and inclusivity code and with this they aim to integrate diversity into the public, people, projects, partners and programs. 

Through investigation it was discovered that there isn’t is not communication between these cities – (Sarajevo, Tirana, Sofia, Zagreb, Podgorica, Ljubljana, Skopje, and so on – etc) so Ms. Fijen and the team begged the question: ; can’tcannot Manifesta set up a network with these different communities? There has been a lot of interest and 10Ten cities in western balkansBalkans are collaborating with Manifesta on this.

The collaborations take place in different various forms including conferences, exhibitions and research projects. Sub cultural mapping is one of the projects where three books of historical research haves been published about the underground cultures in Skopje, Tirana and Pristina. Through investigation theThe team was surprised to learn that during the Yugoslav Period the underground (squatterssquatters’ movement and music scene ) was dynamic, active and creative, but it was never investigated. ThusThus, in  depth research about this has been done with a set of three books now delving further into this period.

The Western Balkans project features films, conferences, exhibitions, education and mediation projects throughout the biennalebiennial. It has been financed by the European Commission for half a million euro. Ideally Manifesta would like for this program to continue after the biennale hasbiennial has finished  and that for this will create a legacy and track record for the European Union Commission to keep supporting.

Urban Vision in collaboration with the arts

The urban vision is called Public After All. It; it has to do with reclaiming public spaces. Manifesta investigated all the public spaces that need re-adaption and revitalisationrevitalization in order to be considered. Google maps doesn’t exist in Kosovo since a lot of countries don’t recogniserecognize it. MIT students did the mapping and photographing of streets. Carlo Ratti, the leading architect for Manifesta 14, and the municipality of Prishtina identified 25 twenty-five venues with four4 pillars. Ideally in the future these pillars could be revitalised or renovated and given back to the public domain.

The first pillar is the Green Corridor. ;It is a a former railroad from Prishtina to Belgrade which closed after the war, and is now being used as a walking, pedestrian area with furniture for the community. There is also the Grand Hotel Prishtina which is currently owned by a privatisationprivatization agency. FurthermoreFurthermore, there is the Garbage belt,; a Brick factory which has been completely cleaned. Raumlaborberlin is working to create aan eco urbaneco-urban learning space. The last pillar is the Hivzi Sulejmani Hivezi Sylejmani library, which is becoming a permanent institution for telling stories. 

Catherine Nichols has proposed interventions which are being executed, and with a team invited more than 50 fifty Kosovar collectives to come up with proposals themselves.  – 15Fifteen of them have been selected and integrated. 

38%Thirty-eight percent of all the projects taking place in this Manifesta are from Kosovar collectives, artists and participants. «There is a radical locality in terms of how to create something in a biennial context which is not only flying in international stars, but to really root the biennial in a local context. 60Sisty percent% of the heritage of Prishtina has been destroyed in the past 20 twenty years, but Manifesta aims to adjust the narrative surrounding Prishtinathe city.

From signal to substance

«From signals to substance. ; Hhow can you not only signal something and publish a book about it or social activity, but how can you work together with the community and the political society and implement it?».

The mapping and urban vision is achieved through working with local public service to implement execute the ideas. Instead of making artificial attempts, a lot of the work is devoted to creative mediation and implementing projects that run s from the idea of legacy. 

Manifesta has created a project in a former library called Centre Forfor Narrative Practice. T, this project will continue after Manifesta the event has finished. The goal is to set up an alternative model for an institution. In the bid that Prishtina made to have Manifesta take place there, they stated that: ; «Everybody wants a museum of modern art, but we don’t have a collection. Could Manifesta come up with an alternative way of becoming an institution?». Ms. Fijen felt it was a relevant question since Kosovo is one of the countries that was in a war/genocide after War War II2. 

What if this alternative model of an institution is not a museum of modern art, but rather an institution organization where people can create collective memories and bring different generational stories together?.

Manifesta does not want to work with curators who tell them what to do, but rather invite creative mediators that work together with the team. A member of the local team is as much allowed to give their creative ideas, as much as a curator from outside.

Manifesta 14

Founded in the 1990’s, Manifesta is the only European Nomadic Biennial, changing locations every two years. Rethinking the relation between culture and civic society by investigating and instigating social change, Manifesta aims to create a dialogue between the host city and the social sphere surrounding it. In July 2022 Manifesta 14 starts in Prishtina, Kosovo – city erased by many, but not forgotten by the locals – with a one-hundred days program of exhibitions, workshops and events.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
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