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.

Manifesta’s 3rd edition was hosted by Ljubljana, a city belonging to the former territory of the Republic of Yugoslavia. This was the first Manifesta to be explicitly thematic. Ljubljana was both close to the raging ethnic turmoil in the region, as well as being known for its cosmopolitan refinement with a reputation as the most western among the Eastern European metropolises. Most Europeans from the West considered it to be an Eastern European city but Eastern Europeans considered it to be particularly westernised.

At the Slovenian border, the Bosnian artist Šejla Kamerić had to use the entrance with a sign saying "Others''. She chose Tromostovje (the Three Bridges) in the centre of Ljublijana for her installation. She placed signs for the European Union (EU) and for “Others'' on the bridges. In this way, passersby who crossed the bridges were forced into a reproduced reality, recalling the situation of those who cross national borders.

Scottish artist Susan Philipsz installed a loudspeaker in an underpass in a park in Ljubljana which broadcast a recording of herself singing the revolutionary workers’ anthem the Internationale, at ten minute intervals. The song’s interpretation was ambiguous as the singer's voice conveyed neither enthusiasm nor sadness, but rather nuances of both. It could be interpreted as a hymn to a lost era, an anthem that was no longer a call to political action.

The appointed collective of curators decided to think about what defines contemporary Europe through the perspective of “the borderline syndrome and defence energies”. They recognised the concept of the borderline syndrome, which they borrowed from the field of psychology, as befitting our times, noting that issues of identity diffusion and defence, protection and resistance, had an impact at many levels – artistic, geopolitical, social, personal. The resulting interdisciplinary artistic projects tried to interrogate the social and political ambiguities of “territory” bothfor global culture at large, and more particularly for artistic production in the light of Europe’s territorial transformations. To support this inquiry, the curators solicited catalogue contributions from a wide range of Slovenian and foreign intellectuals philosophers, historians and sociologists and also from the broader public.

The biennial in Ljubljana reflected the thriving intellectual life of the city and the relevance of interdisciplinary practices in the arts, particularly the crossover between visual art, cinema, performance and new media. For the first time a specialist in architecture and urbanism Ole Bouman, was invited to join the team of contemporary art curators.

The works of 57 international artists and collectives were shown in several outdoor sites and four institutional venues. An extraordinary additional platform was initiated by RTV Slovenia, bringing elements of the biennial programme to viewers of National Slovenian Television.

The Scandinavian artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset created a commercial gallery within the context of the Manifesta 3 biennial programme as an autonomous act. The shows of the gallery were not organised by the curatorial team of the biennial but by a team of young local gallerists. The gallery itself became a sculptural object when it was transferred into the existing exhibition hall of Ljubljana’s Museum of Modern Art.