Manifesta is a roving European art biennale founded in 1996, staged by a succession of different host cities. The 3rd edition in 2000 was the first to be held in a former East Bloc city, Ljubljana, attracting a high proportion of visitors from neighboring countries in eastern and southeastern Europe. Another new initiative was to give the exhibition a theme – Borderline Syndrome. Energies of Defence – making it more strongly a conversation piece within the cultural discourse. To support the theme they were exploring, the curators (Francesco Bonami, Maria Lhavajova, Kathrin Romberg and myself), also solicited external catalogue contributions, not only from a wide range of Slovenian and foreign intellectuals, but also from the general public, turning the catalogue into a collector’s item today. Despite the favorable circumstances, interference by the cultural establishment in Ljubljana keen to frame the biennale as part of the emerging tourist industry, prompted me to open a Virtual Manifesta on the internet, allowing some of the artists who had been excluded to perform.
borderline syndrome. energies of defense.
Art, science, technology, culture: in all of these territories there is an increasing demand for openness. Traffic between them is intense. At the same time, borders remain necessary to keep a grip, to define identity, to deepen understanding. If there is a tendency to level culture horizontally, to explore the surface, there is an equal and opposing tendency to protect the 'vertical', to ground it in a specific value.
A parallel to the geopolitical situation in Europe might be drawn. In a world where globalisation and regionalisation go hand in hand, where the universality of capital is contradicted by the emergence of national, ethnic, provincial and other exclusionary values, of course it is not just culture that deals with the ambiguities of territory. It is a political issue, a social one. It is the character of global culture at large. Protection from political, economic and cultural homogenisation seems to be a fundamental concern of our time.
Don't Save Art, Spend it!
catalogue of manifesta 3
Without borders nothing can exist, or at least we cannot know of it. At the border, something ends and something else begins. Or can begin. A difference thus exists the moment we become aware of a border. Border creates order. There are numerous shades of meaning in the 'border' concept. In its unmarked sense the term 'border' indicates a more or less humdrum, barely emphasized dividing line – something we can merely step over. We know there are differences between the domains on either side, but take no exception to this fact. Border controls have been abolished. The 'frontier' on the other hand is an evasive, mobile border, one we are forever about to reach but never quite reaching, something we still have to work towards. An unconstrained ambition pushes this frontier ever further even as we strain towards it. Frontiers are there to be advanced. Finally, there is the 'limit', an almost metaphysical boundary beyond which lies the eternally unknown. The limit is absolute, an impenetrable shell. Beyond the limit all is either sacrosanct or taboo.
towards a new practice of curating
Manifesta is an ongoing experiment. It travels, it is multi-curatorial, and it explores emerging voices in contemporary visual practice. But is it innovative in terms of display? Even under the aforementioned experimental conditions, a show may arise that is even more local, more object-oriented, more compromise-driven than before. To avoid such a regression, this web site aspires to transcend individual authorship and material work realized in confined physical spaces. It avoids representation of regions and disciplines. It offers creative environments that are linked to others via unpredictable trajectories. It investigates the virtual. It is a Virtual Manifesta.
10 Points towards A New Practice of Curating
01 The traditional methods of exhibiting art are all undergoing tremendous transformation. The status of the maker, the image, the object, the display, the space, the institution, and perhaps most of all, the reception, is changing to such a degree that there are difficulties in recognizing them as such. In these circumstances the practice of curating art shows requires completely different concepts.
02 Most contemporary art is still focused on the hardware: material objects or installations within bound spaces. We need a kind of curatorship of visual art as a self-generating software embedded in culture at large.
03 Today, curators are becoming power figures who position themselves as promotors of particular artists. As latter day connoisseurs, they 'travel', do 'research', and 'select'. What would happen if curators would act like clients, by exploring situations where art can come into existence, by defining a brief?
04 The art world lacks self criticism. Well, if it doesn't exist, it can be invented.
05 The society of spectacle might give way to one of participants again. If the public becomes an interactive force, curating art means using this energy.
06 Art conceived as creative practice can occur at any moment in any place. Curating means the display of a necessary awareness of this idea.
07 Aesthetics have to do with art. But art does not necessarily have to do with aesthetics. Stop the confusion of the categories.
08 In digital culture one experiences the ultimate fusion of disciplinary, philosophical, and even biological entities. Time, space and body are dissolving their boundaries in a new political economy of meaning. Thus hyper-world needs trajectories of creative action. This might be art. To detect them might be an obligation in curating.
09 Organizing a recurring event at different places should imply a large degree of engagement with the local situation. This means that putting the art into the existing, 'kosmopolitan' institutions is a missed chance, because they are the least local of all conceivable venues. If an event comes to a city, the city should prevail as its object, background and generator.
10 Working within a curatorial team consisting of people from different backgrounds means working with dissent. Disagreement is badly needed in contemporary cultural practice. Dissent might even be the most productive dimension of cultural production.