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Should the European biennial Manifesta 14 be held in Ukraine?

Manifesta is a nomadic event aiming to explore European artistic manifestations.

The European biennial was born in the early 90s as a response to the political, economic, and social unrest in the aftermath of the Cold War. 

Participants of each Manifiesta engage in activities that take place for two or more years to promote artistic production in fresh and fertile terrain: publications, discussions, meetings among the world’s best artists, and a final seminar in the host city. 

The event is currently held in Kosovo, a partially recognized state at the center of the Balkans. Manifesta founding director, Hedwig Fijen, announced her plan to host the event in Ukraine in 2028. After the announcement, the Ukrainian Institute in Kyiv would oversee the preparations for the event to be held in six years, including preliminary agreements with local Ukrainian and international cultural organizations.

Manifesta 17’s objective is to create a network of new art and cultural education in several cities of Ukraine by 2028, to decentralize cultural production while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of the Ukrainian state.

The war has been interpreted as a medium for increasing resistance by Ukraine’s artists and cultural organizations. Bringing Manifesta to Ukraine will reinforce Ukraine’s contemporary scene. It’s believed that politically disputed territories are powerful agents of cultural impact by giving voice to underrepresented countries, such as the Kosovo example.

 

As per Manifiesta’s official website: previous editions took place in Rotterdam (1996), Luxembourg (1998), Ljubljana(2000), Frankfurt (2002), San Sebastian (2004), Nicosia (2006 – cancelled), Trentino-South Tyrol (2008), Murcia in dialogue with  northern Africa (2010), Limburg (2012), St. Petersburg (2014), Zurich (2016) and Palermo (2018), and Marseille (2020).

In 2022, the City of Prishtina will be the host, succeeded by Barcelona (2024) and Ruhr (2026). There’s speculation that Ukraine will be the country to hold Manifesta 17 in (2028).

Holding Manifesta in Ukraine is a de-colonial gesture that challenges the Russian narrative of censorship. A case occurred when Manifesta was criticized for hosting the event in St. Petersburg during Russia’s conflict with Ukraine. Ukrainian and Estonian artists presented objects that were threatened with cancellation by the State Hermitage Museum, where the biennial was held.

Others contemplate difficulties holding the event in Ukraine in the possible aftermath of unrest depending on the outcome of their ongoing war with Russia.

A similar case occurred with Eurovision, which was going to be held in Ukraine, which won this year with the song Stefania by Kalush Orchestra and earned the right to host the 2023 edition. Ukraine’s current situation might make it difficult to host the contest, which will be hosted in the UK on their behalf.

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