In the lead up to MANIFESTA 10, the tenth edition of international contemporary art biennial initiated and presented by the Manifesta Foundation, the education department of MANIFESTA 10 held one of its regular “Coffee Break” meetings in St. Petersburg. The event gathered together 45 emerging and established members of the contemporary art community from across Estonia and Finland, along with peers from Moscow and St. Petersburg, with sessions focused on laying the foundations for a collaborative future. This research and networking event followed Manifesta’s methodology of looking at ideas and issues pertinent to the areas in which it holds its Biennial, with respect to Manifesta’s foundational philosophy of investigating the borderlines of Europe, and fostering inter-European relationships.
The four invited speakers Viktor Misiano, Paul Domela, Rhiannon Pickles and Christophe Schenker chose four practical topics to address collaboration. Topics of discussion ranged from how can you re-imagine space to the role of public relations in mediating a biennial in a contested area?
Among the priorities emerging from the sessions was the need to build more bridges across the Nordic and Baltic regions, and to take a considered look at the broader cultural landscape in relation to current political issues. The meeting, designed to inform the ideas and dialogues surrounding the 2014 edition of the Biennial, has provided the starting point for a longer-term research project that Manifesta wishes to carry out together with partnerships built from these originating discussions. How is visual culture shaped by the current political landscape on a regional, national, and international level? What can artistic research bring to urgent and political issues facing contemporary society, and can it have an impact in the larger sphere of policy making?
Taking the case of Manifesta 10 as a departure point for a wider-ranging examination into the social, civic, political, and ethical issues facing specific European regions today, the investigation outlined in this plan will be guided by the individual contexts and contemporary art lenses of the project’s partners, who are based in different European countries, and concentrated in the Nordic and Baltic regions.
Manifesta Coffee Break is a recurring public meeting, serving as an active tool to discuss the concept of Manifesta within a larger critical context. Since 2002, International Foundation Manifesta has been organising a series of encounters amongst specialists in various fields and the members of the Manifesta Network with the intention of discussing Manifesta’s scope and the art field’s evolving practices and their relevance in the current political, social and artistic climate. Generating a particular environment and time for concentrated reflection upon specific concerns, these weekend gatherings and retreats have brought together artists, film makers, scholars, writers, curators, cultural managers, producers and museum professionals from various generations, geopolitical backgrounds and levels of experience who have engaged in a critical investigation around each of the edition’s subject matters and Manifesta’s role. The Manifesta Coffee Breaks intend to allow Manifesta to reflect on its logic and gradually rethink its strategies in relation to the changing European scenario.