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.
For the first time an entire region, instead of a city, hosted a Manifesta edition - the Autonomous Provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige in South Tyrol, Italy. The region was selected for its historical heritage, artistic and cultural facilities and striking examples of industrial archaeological buildings, linked to the history of labour and industrialization in the territory. Moreover as an area which has historically been a bridge between Latin and Germanic societies, it allowed Manifesta 7 to highlight the relationship between Mediterranean and Northern Europe, and to explore how notions of diversity have historically been managedthrough cultural policy making.
Manifesta 7 in 2008, took place in two regions, with 4 main venues investigating how to manage cultural diversity, a prominent issue after the collapse of Manifesta 6 Nicosia in 2006. The spine of the biennial was formed by the trainline going from Fortezza, Bolzano, Trento all the way to Rovereto. considered the region a catalyst for a series of collateral events, encouraging research which focused on the relationship between the different cultures and languages of these Italian provinces that could be called “a Europe within Europe”.
The biennial was curated as a collaborative effort by three teams, representing different geopolitical backgrounds and providing a balance between individual and collective practice: Raqs Media Collective, a Delhi-based trio; Adam Budak, a Polish curator, and Hila Peleg, born in Tel Aviv, together with Anselm Franke, the former director of KW Institute in Berlin.
Six biennial exhibitions showing the works of 230 artists, architects and writers were shown in four cities. With different venues representing the most important examples of industrial archaeology in the Brenner axis, from Rovereto to Trento, and from Bolzano to the fortress of Fortezza, a broad and multi-faceted biennial was created, characterized as “100 miles in 100 days”.
The buildings were not considered merely as containers for the artwork, but in themselves as the point of departure for the exhibitions. The fortress of Fortezza, for example, built by the Habsburgs to withstand every kind of military assault, was opened to the public for the first time in its 165 years of existence.
Manifesta invested in the renovation and refurbishment of several abandoned post-industrial buildings that were used during the biennial, with the aim of maintaining the energy generated by the biennial for the long-term benefit of the region. In addition to these material investments, Manifesta strived to preserve the cultural synergy in the region with interventions by contemporary artists designed to regenerate its long-term collective memory.