The following document was leaked to us some days ago by a close team member of the curator of Manifesta 10, Kasper König. The source wished to remain anonymous, but is known to our editorial team. In light of recent events, we translated the document into three languages. Contact was first established through networks formed during the Berlin Biennale 7; these networks also assisted with the translations. (русская версия; polska wersja; deutsche Version)
„Art is free. Always. Essentially. By necessity.
Art is free, free in its thoughts and in its production. And as long as art respects the fundamental rules of propriety in the society from which it arises, it can live by the principle: Nothing is true, everything is allowed.
Art does not improve the world, but rather helps us to understand, little by little, the contradictions inherent within it. I believe that art should not be dependent on political trends because the essence of Art is autonomous. If art is supposed to retain this autonomy, then we must be ready to transgress the borders of political reality.
We had hoped that in case of the escalation of the political situation, it would happen only after the Manifesta, so that we could devote ourselves undisturbed to our work. But life is sometimes neither would we would expect nor hope.We are forced to tread lightly around the situation, as discomforting as it might be for us. And if that means that we have to shut our eyes order to avoid falling victim to self-censorship, then I am ready to take that step.
It is not our aim to comment on political processes in a neighbouring region, which have up until now exhausted themselves in their profanity and shock-value in the media. Rather, our aim is to produce amultilayered art exhibition that is imbedded in a much larger and more meaningful context – culture, education, open debate, and an intercultural dialogue which spans the whole spectrum of the contemporary art. Even if art and political feuds take place in close geographical proximity, who is to say that politics could ever be more substantial and complex than Art?
The many local and international artists that accepted our invitation achieved a great work in St. Petersburg over the last few months. In our exhibition they have found a free space beyond moralizing tension and self-censorship; and a reality that has greater dimensionality than the often monotone banality of the media reports.
The West is downright obsessed with the idea of morally cleaning up Russia. What the governments of the West failed to succeed in the cold war is now, it appears, once more placed on the agenda. But there is nothing in Russia that must be cleaned up – neither from the western moral watchdogs nor in the name of the Manifesta, whose aim it is instead to breathe spirit of the place where it has found a temporary home.
As a polite guest I want to offer the due respect and empathy for the needs of my Russian hosts. I am not an officer of the occupying forces. At the same time, I don’t have to do what I don’t want. Here we all participate in a dialogue without restraints, a kind of liberation in this utopian city of St. Petersburg.
What the self-selected moral entrepreneurs in the West fail to understand is: In some situations to be an opportunist is the only option to act and possibly the only true ethical behavior invested in the office of the responsible curator. For our task is to advance the international art scene to the place which is still looking for its role in the world.
What fascinates me and what we would like to explore during the Manifesta 10 is the uptightness of the Russian soul, but without missionay behaviour. To bring the endless fatalism and the depth of Dostoyevsky together with the grand figures of our time such as Thomas Hirschhorn: this is the moment when civilisations reach hands to each other.
Of course, the situation in the neighbouring region doesn’t pass us by completely. Yet I believe that art in these times – for some people surely not an easy times – can present a possibility for psychological rehabilitation, as the abstract expressionism did after WW2 , for example. Although it is not the task of art to solve complicated political conflicts, I don’t exclude the possibility that art can also help mitigate the problems in a country.
Until now, I have managed to keep cheap and self-righteous provocations away from the Manifesta. The exhibition is not a stage for ideological artists or „activists“, for whom art is nothing but an instrument for bringing forward their political careers.
Art at the Manifesta is free. And it will remain free. If I must make compromises then that is a sacrifice I am willing to make, in order to defend the space of art against attempts of appropriation by the western moralists and political provocateurs.