Topic: Manifesta 6 - The story in short
As NeMe desires to promote a balanced discussion we are posting here the official announcement by NFA
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.
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".
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.
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