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Topic: Manifesta 6 - The story in short

As NeMe desires to promote a balanced discussion we are posting here the official announcement by NFA

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Dear friends,
Much has come to light recently regarding Manifesta 6 and the NFA's (Nicosia for Art) decision to terminate the agreements of IFM (International Foundation Manifesta) as well as those of the Curators (Mai Abu ElDahab, Anton Vidokle, Florian Waldvogel). For its part the NFA has circulated its first announcement with the official positions of the Board that directly concern the provisions and the violations of the above mentioned contracts. We believe it is useful to further explain some important and timely issues that played a decisive role in the development and unfortunate outcome of the project.

The School

Firstly, we must stress that the initial idea adopted by the Curators as intended in the organization included the creation of one integrated school, which the Curators themselves had decided to locate at the Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre. At the same time, there were to be a number of events within the framework of the school in other buildings such as cinemas, theatres, alternatives spaces, amphitheatres, etc. throughout the whole city. For this purpose, a search was initiated very early on to locate appropriate venues. Unfortunately, given internal problems amongst the Curators, which proved irresolvable in spite of all the efforts on the part of the Host to overcome them, we were led to the splitting of the school into three departments, the responsibility of which would fall upon each of the three Curators accordingly.
Just this past February and while the search for the venues was ongoing throughout the whole city, a proposal for the rental of the Misirlizade Centre in Seray Square in occupied Nicosia was submitted. Despite the fact that the Curators had previously decided that only the buildings which were offered free of charge would be used (as was the case with all previous Manifesta events), the organizers decided to investigate this possibility.
It became clear from the outset that the establishment and operation of a department of the school in the occupied territory on a permanent basis stood in conflict both with Cyprus as well as International Law principles. Due to the obligatory passport check by the non_recognized "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" it was not possible for NFA as the Host of the event, to guarantee free access to participants as well as to the public at large. This was a contractual obligation of the Host. The fact that participation in the main program of the school was obligatory and not optional (as would have been the case for 'one_off' events) created a serious legal problem given that the Host would not be in a position to scrutinize and challenge the unlawful process of passport checks exercised by the "authorities" of the so called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus".

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Even the establishment and operation of infrastructure on territory that is under occupation created insurmountable, real and fundamental problems (obtaining of licenses, insurance, operations, permits for events in public places, and many more). It should also be stressed that, according to the contract, the Host is autonomous in respect of the final choice of venues in which the undertakings and events of Manifesta will take place. Both IFM and the Curators repeatedly and strongly disputed NFA's autonomy in this respect.
The Bi_Communal Character
The bi_communal character formed from the outset of the project one of its fundamental components. As such, the Host as well as the Curators and IFM considered this issue as one of priority and, in fact, worked towards this direction. The successful events of Manifesta 6 in the occupied territory such as the CoffeeBreak, the briefing of Turkish – Cypriots about the content of the program, the communication with individuals and with organized groups of artists and journalists and the inclusion of Turkish_Cypriot and Turkish personalities in the Host Committee, are indicative of the Host's interest in ensuring the bi_communal character of the event. The Host, as well as IFM, believed from the beginning that the bi_communal character of the program was assured primarily through the substantial participation of individuals from both communities. It is worth noting that, given the complete autonomy of the Curators concerning the choice of participants in the school, the former held in their hands the major responsibility of ensuring through the composition of the departments the satisfactory representation of both communities.
In no instance was the bi_communal character of Manifesta 6 a point of conflict or disagreement between the parties involved. To the contrary, this mutually agreed point remained unaltered throughout the duration of the project. However, this fact must not be confused with the legal issue concerning the operation of a major department of the school for 100 days in a building in the occupied part of Nicosia.

The budget

A lot of groundless statements surround this matter. The facts and the figures are clear and a matter of record. For the successful organization of an event of this size and nature which began in 2004, and for which an entire infrastructure was set up, contributors from the Cypriot side include the Municipality of Nicosia (cash and in_kind sponsorship, essential services and human resources), the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Cyprus Tourism Organization, as well as a number of other local sponsors. The total amount came to one million Euros. Of this, 175.000 Euros was prepaid to IFM as Franchise Fees.

Unfortunately, and in spite of all the initial promises and commitments made by and on behalf of IFM, the amount from international sponsors was significantly below from the one promised and expected. Many of the sponsorships that were mentioned by IFM did not concern the expenditure of the M6 project, but other activities of IFM, including the requirements for the running costs of the Foundation. As a result false impressions and expectations were created regarding the forecast for the final available budget.

Another augmented promise made by the IFM concerned the organization of a great auction with Sotheby's, involving works of famous artists who had participated in previous Manifesta campaigns, and which would ultimately have provided a sizeable proportion of the required budget. This auction, despite of all assurances made by IFM, in fact never materialised. Other sponsorships, for which initial assurances had been given, concerned the coverage of expenses of participants from various countries, which were again not part of the general expenditure budget.

Furthermore, many of the institutional sponsors of Manifesta reduced their traditional contributions to the minimum (for example, Allianz Kulturstiftung had contributed 150.000 Euro to Manifesta 5, but reduced this sum to 6.000 Euro for Manifesta 6). We have at our disposal all the amounts that were obtained and that were, unfortunately insufficient for the realisation of the program as it was planned. The claim, therefore, that Nicosia for Art did not respond to its commitments is completely unjustified and unsubstantiated. At the same time the claim regarding lack of transparency or of budget mismanagement is equally unfounded and unjustified. The Nicosia Municipality is a public body, which preserves and upholds all necessary legal and accounting procedures.

Nicosia for Art expresses its deepest regret for this unfortunate outcome, but also expresses surprise and disappointment for the manner in which the matter was handled, by both IFM and the Curators especially through incomplete public statements.

Despite the fact that the Cyprus political problem contributed greatly to the choice of Nicosia as the host city, and which was certain to be a pivotal source of contention for Manifesta within the program and the process of establishment of the school, the reasons that led to the termination of the event were purely of a legal nature and, in contrast to claims manifested by IFM and the Curators, had nothing to do with political interference or pressure.

Unfortunately, as it has happened in the past, the rhetoric surrounding an issue as serious as the Cyprus problem has been used in such a way as to depict and reinforce division and bipolarity, instead of fundamentally contributing to its understanding. In spite of all the polemics to which the Host, the Nicosia Municipality and the local community is subjected, as part of the distortion of its genuine and honest intentions, the Nicosia Municipality will nevertheless continue to pursue international collaborations that have the potential to create the climate for a real dialogue and promote, within and outside of the arts, programmes that strengthen tolerance and multiculturalism.

Nicosia for Art Ltd
Nicosia, 7th June 2006

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Re: Manifesta 6 - The story in short

Press release 6 June 2006 (English version)

From: International Foundation Manifesta, Amsterdam


Nicosia for Art cancels Manifesta 6
The decision of the International Foundation Manifesta (Manifesta) to locate the sixth edition of Manifesta in Nicosia was based on the conditions and contractual obligations, agreed in 2004 with all host parties, to involve the entire city of Nicosia. Manifesta 6 in Nicosia, and the sub-region is intended to serve as an index of change, through the development of sustainable relationships with local and regional producers, artists and the intellectual community.

Recently, a conflict has arisen between Manifesta and Nicosia for Art Limited (NFA). Manifesta maintains that NFA, a special legal entity set up by representatives of the Municipality of Nicosia and the Cypriot Ministry of Culture and Education to administer Manifesta 6 in autumn 2006, has not fulfilled its contractual obligations to secure the selected venues by the curators in the entire city, i.e. in both North and South Nicosia. NFA has turned down all the proposals put forward by Manifesta and the curators and has only sought to prevent Manifesta 6 from also taking place in the Northern part of Nicosia.

Manifesta has at no point renounced its firm intention of holding Manifesta 6 in Nicosia. Deliberately or otherwise, NFA has undermined this intention and its contractual obligations, culminating in their dismissal of the curators of Manifesta 6 and cancellation of the contract with NFA. Manifesta 6 on Cyprus was conceived as a confidence-building measure and as a cultural intervention in the service of peaceful dialogue, that would enable curators and artists to collaborate with all the different communities in the region, in a multicultural context. The unilateral cancellation of Manifesta 6 by the authorities in Nicosia is generally seen as a reversion to stock political responses and forces Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot artists and intellectuals alike back into a state of enforced isolation.

By dismissing the curators of Manifesta 6, NFA is aggressively and, it would seem, deliberately, calling into question the artistic independence of the curators and Manifesta. The allegations of NFA, that Manifesta would wish to operate in any illegal manner, are entirely unjustifiable and unacceptable. The fact that NFA is taking legal steps that threaten to destroy Manifesta 6 and to undermine individuals' freedom of action is in flagrant breach of all international cultural conventions.

Manifesta is forced, reluctantly, to conclude, that the Host City of Nicosia no longer wishes to support this European art project, despite the fact that Cyprus now belongs to the European Union, and that it seeks to silence the voice of the curators and of an independent European arts organisation.

For all of these reasons, Manifesta now feels compelled to take its case to court, in order to safeguard the project Manifesta 6, to defend itself from the ongoing aggressive allegations of NFA and to stand up not only for its own rights, but for all of those involved including the three curators in Manifesta 6. Manifesta remains open, however, to discussing with NFA any solutions to safeguard Manifesta 6 to take place without compromising artistic integrity and the contractual obligations parties have assumed.

The International Foundation Manifesta, as a non profit organisation is in the process of setting up a legal defence fund, to fight its corner and of all of those involved including that of the curators in Manifesta 6. It will welcome help and donations from anyone interested in offering tangible support.

The full background to all this and details of the fund will be announced at the forthcoming press conference at Art Basel on June 14 at 6 PM in the Kleine Festsaal, Conference Room Luzern, located on the second floor in the Art Unlimited Hall. In the meantime, all enquiries or offers of support should, please, be directed to:

International Foundation Manifesta Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: secretariat@manifesta.org

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Re: Manifesta 6 - The story in short

While you are talking about 'a balanced discussion' NFA (and propably the "demolition artists", as Patroclos called them, behind NFA) continues the attacks against the freedom of art: On June, 21st Florian Waldvogel received a letter by NFA, saying, that NFA will sue him for 250.000 Euro worth in recompensation. The legal proceedings will take place the 3rd of july.

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Re: Manifesta 6 - The story in short

NeMe regrets this turn of events however,  as we are not one person but 30, a collective decision of whom to support is not possible. Some of our members believe in the NFA version of events, some in the IFM's version whilst others declare neutrality.

This forum was not set up to resolve legal issues or support a particular case over another but to present different views and developments.

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Re: Manifesta 6 - The story in short

its very disappointing that neme is such a wimp in the end. what do you stand for neme? different views - this i can find in the market. for a cultural organization i do have higher standards.