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Manifesta, the European nomadic biennial

Monica Sassatelli explains her research on Manifesta.
Art biennials are major recurrent exhibitions that take the pulse of contemporary visual arts. Among the most established and challenging ones in Europe and for Europe is Manifesta, the European nomadic biennial taking place, as its name says, every two years in a different location. In the words of its founding director, Hedwig Fejin, Manifesta was conceived in the early 1990s as a nomadic European biennial of contemporary art, responding to the new social, cultural, and political reality that emerged in the aftermath of the Cold War. Since its first edition in 1996 following its stated mission– to transgress the existing regional, social, linguistic, and economic barriers in Europe. Manifesta aims to bring cutting edge contemporary art exhibitions to the four corners of Europe.
By privileging young art and the European periphery art most concretely by avoiding the obvious and dominant centres of artistic production. And instead, seeking fresh and fertile terrain for the mapping of a new cultural topography. In its vision of a Europe without borders, Manifesta challenges both the national representation model, but also the counter model of the thematic exhibition. Manifesta, in fact, somehow combines the two models by addressing directly Europe as a theme to investigate. It is also inspired by reflections on migration, conflict, and the post-colonial condition.
With this ambitious programme the Manifesta International Foundation has brought the exhibition in Rotterdam, Luxembourg, Ljubljana, Frankfurt, San Sebastian, and after the cancelled Manifesta in Nicosia in 2006 due to the complex political situation in Cyprus, the Manifesta resumed in Trentino, South Tyrol. Then onward to Murcia and Cartagena in dialogue with North Africa– Limburg, St. Petersburg, Zurich, and Palermo. In 2020, the edition is planned to take place in Marseille. Manifesta presents itself clearly as an agent of intercultural dialogue. Thus aims to facilitate the exchange between particular and often peripheral cultural and artistic situations, and the broader international fields of contemporary art, theory, and politics, with a pan-European vocation.
In its first 20 years and 10 exhibitions, it has presented artists, curators, young professionals, and trainees from over 40 countries, reaching 2.5 million visitors. In recent years, Manifesta has started focusing on creating links with Europe’s neighbours in Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and Northern Africa, where it’s also continuing its chosen mission to highlight the role of minority groups and cultures in Europe. An independent initiative, Manifesta is funded by national arts organisations in more than 26 European countries, ministries of culture, and private sponsors. Recently, it started receiving funding from the European Union via its cultural programmes and from the European Cultural Foundation.
For several years, the Manifesta Foundation was also awarded the title of Ambassador of European Culture by the Education Audio/Visual and Cultural Executive Agency of the European Union. The theme of Manifesta 12 in Palermo, the planetary garden cultivating coexistence, confirms the ambition of the nomadic biennial to be politically and socially engaged. Furthering its own version of cultural dialogue through art in a European area that also strives to be open and inclusive.

Manifesta is an art festival happening every two years in a different European country, and which has a leading impact on the global art world.

Through this animation, Monica Sassatelli explains her research on this event.

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