Topic: Statement by International Foundation Manifesta

Amsterdam, 23 June 2006

For immediate Release:

Manifesta 6 curators now individually attacked by Nicosia officials

Dear colleagues and friends,

International Foundation Manifesta (IFM) is deeply saddened by the recent cancellation of Manifesta 6 by local officials in Nicosia, Cyprus. We are also outraged by this blatant lack of respect for the work of the more than 100 young artists and writers from all parts of the world who were selected by the curators to take part in this amazing project. International Foundation Manifesta categorically rejects all attempts to censor or misuse culture to serve a specific political agenda, and calls on cultural producers and institutions to protest at this gross violation of freedom of expression and political persecution of cultural producers.

By definition, Manifesta, the European Biennial for Contemporary Art, is a roving exhibition that seeks to create venues for art in European countries that will lend their own, site-specific qualities to the project, changing it each time it moves.  The goal of Manifesta is, every two years, to explore the conditions of cultural production in a different, and, therefore, challenging place, as well as to create a new venue, where local artists and intellectuals can participate in a shared European artistic discourse. Precisely for this reason, after a long period of research and development both by the International Foundation Manifesta and its Cypriot partners, Manifesta 6 came to be located in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Nicosia is a city divided into Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot sectors, separated by the Green Line - a demilitarised zone maintained by the. For several decades it was largely impossible to move from one sector of the city to the other, as the Green Line remained closed until a number of crossing points were opened in 2003. Manifesta 6 in Nicosia and the surrounding region was intended to serve as an index of change through the development of sustainable relationships with the local and regional communities.  At the time when planning was still in its early stages, the International Foundation Manifesta drew up contracts with the host organisation, Nicosia for Art Ltd. (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 - determining the scope of their responsibility to Manifesta 6, and defining their role as the facilitators of the project in Nicosia, who would provide the core organisation and assist the curators with the choice of venues, on both sides of the Green Line. Since the North Turkish Republic of Cyprus and its government are not recognised under international law, the Cypriot parties entrusted with organising Manifesta 6 were drawn from the Greek-Cypriot authorities, though every effort was made at the time to ensure that the IFM’s partners would be willing, and able, to collaborate fully with their neighbours to the North and enable Manifesta 6 to take place in both communities.

Sadly, now it is the very specifics of the Nicosia location, which drew Manifesta 6 to Nicosia, that have been cited as a principal reason for its cancellation.  Despite the early and explicit intention of all parties to hold the exhibition on both sides of the Green Line, in both the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot sectors, the local authorities in Nicosia have abruptly terminated the contracts of all three curators, Mai Abu ElDahab, Anton Vidokle and  Florian Waldvogel, and taken legal action against both the International Foundation Manifesta and each of the curators individually, for sticking to their intention to hold a part of the project on the Turkish-Cypriot side of the city. Moreover, this legal action is aimed at preventing any part of the project from being realised in any form, anywhere, at any future date – thereby, effectively aiming to eradicate all the work carried out on this project by all its numerous participants over the last 18 months. For these reasons, the International Foundation Manifesta maintains that Nicosia for Art is in flagrant breach of its contractual obligations.

The International Foundation Manifesta, as a non-profit organisation, is entirely dependent on outside funding and has no resources of its own. For this reason, it is in the process of setting up a legal defence fund, to protect both itself and the curators from the litigation of Nicosia for Art. Manifesta welcomes any and all support in this time of crisis, and appreciates the efforts that have already been made on its behalf.
All enquiries or offers of support should, please, be directed to:

International Foundation Manifesta
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
e-mail: secretariat@manifesta.org
Tel: +31 (0)20 672 1435