Manifesta purposely strives to keep its distance from what are often seen as the dominant centres of artistic production, instead seeking fresh and fertile terrain for the mapping of a new cultural topography.

Dardan Zhegrova, RKS

The puppets and personae inhabiting Dardan Zhegrova’s works seem soft and porous. They are unabashedly vulnerable and weirdly familiar in their hapless quest for intimacy.

They know what it is to feel unrequited love and aching longing, to grapple with fragile identities in a world not yet comfortable with its queerness. In the video I kissed the kiss on your girlfriend’s cheek, it was still wet, Zhegrova plunges his artistic persona into a dreamscape of desire. Here he dares to express – and indeed to own – his yearning for a man who doesn’t love men.

In Your enthusiasm to tell a story, a series of brightly coloured, human-sized voodoo dolls, the artist looks rather to magic to satisfy his longing. Whereas popular culture versions of voodoo revolve around pins and pain, Zhegrova’s voodoos are all about love. Rather than pins, they have poems inside them and are meant to be cuddled and cared for.