Manifesta 6 Cyprus

23 Sep - 17 Dec 2006

23 September - 17 December 2006

Manifesta 6 was planned to take the form of a temporary art school, the Manifesta 6 School, comprised of three departments revolving around diverse cultural issues and debates, and each proposing a different structural model for art education. The proposed Manifesta 6 School is a postgraduate, trans-disciplinary program for approximately 90 participants from many parts of the world lasting about 12-weeks: (see full list of Manifesta 6 participants below). Inspired by such historical examples as Black Mountain College and the Bauhaus, the School would be a meeting ground for cultural producers in the region and beyond, and a platform for discussion and production.

In keeping with the past goals of Manifesta to open dialogue between West Europes artists and audiences and their Eastern European peers, Manifesta 6 intended to play a modest role in developing new forms of cultural partnerships, not only within the new Europe, but particularly between Europe and its immediate neighbouring regions. Such cultural partnerships in the context of Nicosia, a city located on the furthermost edge of European Community and divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors, specifically implies engagement and presence in both communities inhabiting this city.

Unfortunately, on June 1st, we received a letter from the Mayor of Nicosia, Cyprus, effectively terminating our contracts to organize Manifesta 6, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Nicosia. On June 2nd, Nicosia for Art Ltd. (the non-profit organization set up and owned by the Municipality of Nicosia to run the project) made a public announcement and circulated it internationally defining a variety of alleged breaches of contract by the curators, which led the city to cancel the project.

The alleged breaches of contract being referred to relate in large part to what Nicosia for Art Ltd. states as Recently and contrary to the original concept of the Manifesta 6 program the curatorial team insisted on the establishment and operation of an essential part of the Manifesta 6 School in the occupied part of Nicosia, a break of confidentiality and an unwillingness on the part of the curators to mediate the situation to reach an amicable compromise to allow for the project to be realized.

With regards to the primary issue around the location of a part of the school in the north, the contractual agreement made with the local authorities clearly defined Manifesta 6 as a bi-communal project, therefore, we believed ourselves to be working within the parameters outlined and agreed upon at the outset of the project. Accordingly, we developed the project in the spirit of this bi-communality, and throughout the process, the Greek Cypriot authorities not only agreed, but also encouraged this approach to working in both areas of the city and made numerous official public statements confirming their support.

The Manifesta 6 School was envisioned as an important cultural project to take place in a city whose political climate has been changing dramatically. Needless to say, we continued to work to safeguard this position while obviously making every effort to reach a compromise with Nicosia for Art Ltd. to ensure our concept is realized. Moreover, we continuously advocated for a transparency within the process to maintain responsible and accountable conditions for our collaborators and ourselves.

Unfortunately, throughout the course of the last six months, we were increasingly hindered by a lack of administrative support to realize the project, which simply climaxed with the termination of our contracts as the final gesture reflecting Nicosia for Arts unwillingness to resolve any disagreements. Although we can conjecture and analyze the problematics of the situation, we feel that our foremost priority now is to attempt to find a way to ensure that the commitments and hard work of all of those involved whether administratively or from the artistic side is not lost, and is treated with the utmost respect and support.

This cancellation of the Manifesta 6 School does a great disservice to the cultural community of Cyprus. Numerous artists, writers and academics who live on both sides of the island have sent us letters of support, protesting arbitrary action by local authorities that deprives the cultural community of an invaluable opportunity to meet and engage with their peers from around the world, noting that given the limited resources available at the local level, the mobilization of such interest and expertise for Nicosia is unprecedented and extremely special.