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Chto Delat withdraws from Manifesta 10 (St. Petersburg, Russia)

March 15, 2014

via Chto Delat? events and around

In solidarity with the Peace March in Moscow today Chto Delat announces its decision to withdraw from Manifesta 10

On March 11th, Manifesta Foundation responded to recent calls for boycotts, cancelation and postponement of Manifesta 10, planned to open at the State Hermitage Museum in early summer.

In this long-awaited statement, the foundation announced that it will not cancel under the present circumstances. Also, presumably responding to calls for the exhibition’s radicalization, curator Kasper König reaffirmed his commitment to a group show demonstrating the broadest possible spectrum of art’s possibilities, emphasizing that his contract allows artistic freedom – within the limits of the Russian law – and that he will (try) to keep the show free of censorship. But at the same time, he also restated his dislike for “cheap provocations” in topical political references, warning that Manifesta 10 at Hermitage could be “misused by political actors as a platform for their own self-righteous representation,” and insisting that “it is [his] hope to present far more than just commentary on the present political circumstances.” ( It is clearly art over politics. Kaspar König’s most recent statement denigrates any attempts to address the present situation in Russia by artistic means, demoting them to “self-righteous representation” and “cheap provocation” and thus effectively preemptively censoring them.We see now from this official reaction that neither curator nor institution are capable of rising to the challenge of a dramatically evolving political situation, and we cannot be held hostage by its corporate policies, however reasonable they would sound under different circumstance.

For this reason, we, the artists of Chto delat, have decided to withdraw our participation from the exhibition at Hermitage.

As we have said before, we are generally against boycotts and especially as far as international cultural projects in Russia are concerned. A cultural blockade will only strengthen the position of reactionary forces at a time when the marginalized anti-war movement in Russia so desperately needs solidarity. But our aim at least should be to turn every cultural project into a manifestation of dissent against the Russian government’s policy of violence, repressions, and lies. Even if you are staging Shakespeare or exhibiting Matisse, the task of culture today is to find the artistic language to bring home that simple message.

Sadly, Manifesta cannot rise to this challenge. Had the situation remained as it was, with a soft authoritarianism continuing to stagnate in Russia, the project might have been a positive factor for the further development of a fledgling public sphere. But as conditions worsen and reactionary forces grow stronger by the day, Manifesta has shown that it can respond with little more than bureaucratic injunctions to respect law and order in a situation where any and all law has gone to the wind. For that reason, any participation in the Manifesta 10 exhibition loses its initial meaning.

We have sympathy for the views expressed in the personal statement by Joanna Warsza *, curator of Manifesta 10’s public program, and we would only be too happy to continue supporting her efforts. Nevertheless, her statement has a private quality, and the dangers to the project – censorship, manipulations of meaning, and intimidation, which she describes so accurately, are inevitable under current political escalation.Warsza precisely describes the choice between engagement and the desire to stay on the sidelines. Our own choice also lies with engagement, but in forms of action and artistic expression for which we can take responsibility in this new situation. As the only “living” local participants of Kaspar König’s project, our withdrawal comes with the responsibility to address the local context and make an artistic statement independently of Manifesta, aiming for resonance both in Russia and internationally.

We are now beginning work on such a new project: a solidarity exhibition of Ukrainian and Russian artists, poets, intellectuals and cultural figures. At this terrible moment in our society’s history, we are ready to demonstrate our unity and the possibility of taking action against the war together, rising above the flood of hate, lies, manipulation, and direct violence, and not above politics.

We do not know how, when, or where this project will take place, but we are sure that working toward its realization, and not self-representation at Manifesta-Hermitage exhibition, is the only responsible way to proceed.

Chto Delat collective

*In her statement published on Facebook, Joanna Warsza stated that:
“In this very tense situation with the calls for boycott of the project, while working with the artists, we are confronted with the old political dilemma: engagement or disengagement? As much as we of course clearly and without doubt oppose the Russian military intervention in Crimea and the position of the Russian government, we also oppose the tone of westocentric superiority and many European double standards, waging a moral struggle of values.  This is in fact one of those moments when art really is especially needed if it wants to engage in a critical way with the complexities and conflicts of our time. The projects will obviously not represent the position of the Russian government. I believe that as long as we can work in the complex manner and in the context-responsive way, as long as we – curator, artists, team – are not exposed to the self-censorship, not being intimidated or restricted, we will do so. Especially in this contested time, when one should not set people, and our audiences, equal to their governments and glow with schadenfreude. “


via Chto Delat? events and around


Публикуем сегодня в знак поддержки российских антивоенных протестов

«Что Делать» выходит из выставки Манифеста Х

11 марта фонд «Манифеста» ответил на недавние призывы к бойкоту, отмене или переносу «Манифесты 10», которая должна открыться в Государственном Эрмитаже в начале лета.

В этом долгожданном заявлении фонд дал понять, что, несмотря на политическую ситуацию, не собирается ничего отменять или переносить. Кроме того, предположительно отвечая на призывы к радикализации биеннале, куратор Каспар Кёниг вновь подтвердил свою приверженность групповой выставке, которая демонстрировала бы самый широкий спектр художественных подходов, подчеркнув, что его контракт предполагает творческую свободу – в рамках российского законодательства – и что он постарается избежать цензуры. В то же время, он вновь заявил о своем неприятии «дешевых провокаций», предупредив, что «Манифеста 10» может быть «не по назначению использована политическими игроками в качестве платформы для собственного лицемерного самоутверждения» и выразив надежду, что ему удастся «показать нечто большее, чем просто комментарий к текущей политической ситуации» (

Иными словами, искусство выше политики. Своим последним замечанием Каспар Кёниг обесценивает любые попытки говорить о текущей ситуации в России художественными средствами, принижая их до «лицемерного самоутверждения» и «дешевой провокации» и тем самым заведомо подвергая их цензуре.

Из официальной реакции «Манифесты» мы заключаем, что ни куратор, ни фонд не готовы ответить на драматическое развитие событий, как в день начала военной эскалации они не смогли отменить светское празднование Масленицы. Мы не можем быть заложниками их корпоративной политики, сколь бы та ни казалась благоразумной в других обстоятельствах.

Поэтому мы приняли крайне тяжелое для себя решение отказаться от участия в выставке в Эрмитаже.

Мы уже говорили, что выступаем против бойкотов, особенно когда речь идет о международных культурных проектах в России. Культурная блокада лишь сыграет на руку реакционным силам, упрочит их позицию – в том самый момент, когда маргинализованное антивоенное движение в России отчаянно нуждается в солидарности. Тогда как наша задача здесь и сейчас, как минимум, превратить каждый культурный проект в манифестацию несогласия с государственной политикой насилия, лжи и репрессий. Даже если вы ставите Шекспира или хотите показать Матисса, задача культуры сегодня – найти такой художественный язык, который поможет донести до публики это простое сообщение.

К сожалению, «Манифеста» не готова принять этот вызов. Она могла бы стать позитивным фактором развития публичной сферы в России, продолжай ситуация «мягкого авторитаризма» оставаться прежней. Но в условиях обострения милитаристских настроений и усиления реакции «Манифеста» демонстрирует, что способна реагировать на это лишь бюрократическим языком призывов к соблюдению законности и порядка – в ситуации, когда любая законность уже полетела ко всем чертям. Поэтому для нас участие в выставочном проекте «Манифесты 10» утрачивает свой изначальный смысл.

Мы разделяем точку зрения, высказанную куратором публичной программы «Манифесты 10» Иоанной Варши в ее личном заявлении и были бы рады поддержать ее усилия. Однако ее высказывание носит частный характер, а грозящие реализации проекта опасности – цензуры, манипуляции смыслами и запугивания, которые она столь точно обрисовала, практически неизбежны.

Иоанна Варша очень верно описывает выбор между вовлеченностью и желанием остаться в стороне. Мы выбираем вовлеченность, но в тех формах действия и производства художественных высказываний, за которые мы готовы отвечать в новой ситуации. Отказываясь от участия в «Манифесте 10», мы берем на себя ответственность за то, что в местном контексте нам удастся реализовать такие высказывания, которые будут услышаны как в России, так и за рубежом.

Сейчас мы начинаем работу над новым проектом: выставкой солидарности украинских и русских художников, поэтов, интеллектуалов, деятелей культуры. В этот страшный момент в истории наших обществ мы готовы продемонстрировать наше единство и возможности совместного антивоенного действия, поднявшись над потоком ненависти, лжи, манипуляции и прямого насилия, но не над политикой.

Мы не знаем, как, когда и где этот проект сможет состояться, но уверены, что стремление к его осуществлению – а не обозначение своего присутствия на «Манифесте 10» — единственный ответственный путь.

группа «Что делать?»

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Cheryl Ann Sigsbee permalink
    June 12, 2014 12:34 PM

    June 11, 2014

    Mr. Kasper Konig, Chief Curator of Manifesta 10
    Manifesta Foundation

    Dear Mr. Kasper Konig:

    My name is Cheryl Ann Sigsbee.
    I am an American citizen living and working in St. Petersburg, Russia since January of 1991.

    I was saddened to read in the article entitled “Manifesta Curator Considers Cancelling Biennale” (St. Petersburg Times, June 11, 2014) that Manifesta is under political and economic pressure to cancel Manifesta 10 hosted by the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia (June 28 – October 31, 2014).
    If indeed the article accurately reflects your statements and opinions, then I respectfully request that Manifesta and you personally reconsider the idea of canceling Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg.

    Knowing a little about Russian culture after having lived and worked in Russia for the past 24 years, my impression is that Mr. Piotrowsky took a significant professional and personal risk when he proposed the Hermitage Museum as host to the Manifesta 10 contemporary arts festival.
    Out of respect for Mr. Piotrowsky, his hard work in bringing Manifesta 10 to St. Petersburg and the Hermitage Museum, and his philosophical vision in doing so, Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg should definitely NOT be cancelled.

    If indeed the approx. 2,000 people who signed a petition in favor of changing Manifesta 10’s location really want to help Russia overcome its at times intolerant nature, the best thing that they can do is in fact to SUPPORT Manifesta 10’s presence in St. Petersburg.

    Since 1996, Manifesta has been held in 7 countries – The Netherlands, Luxemburg, Slovenia, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Belgium.

    Manifesta 6 in Cyprus was cancelled in 2006, with the following statement being posted at :

    “Manifesta’s planned, 6th edition, was to take the form of an art school in Nicosia, Cyprus.

    Its cancellation deepened Manifesta’s awareness of the sensitivities of engaging with local political contexts and contested regions.”

    While as I understand in 2006 it was the Cyprus side that cancelled Manifesta 6, this year it could be the Manifesta side that does the cancellation.

    Such a cancellation could set a strong precedent for further politicized cancellations in the future.

    In addition, we should keep in mind that in any country of the world (including the 7 named above), large groups of people can find quite justifiable and important causes to support in deciding whether to cancel various events and engage in other actions.

    And, as regards my own beloved United States of America, at the age of 55 I can assure you that I have seen plenty of things that seriously concern me about my own country and its actions/inactions, including within the past several decades.

    For me, the question becomes whether a particular cancellation or other action will further the goals of PEACE and COOPERATION in the world – as regards Manifesta 10, I think that there would be much more harm than good come from cancellation.

    Regarding Manifesta 10’s problems with cash flow and the fact that its Russian staff has not been paid regularly, I am sure that St. Petersburg residents (including those that already volunteer at the Hermitage Museum) can come together to volunteer some of their free time to make Manifesta 10 a success

    (see and
    If there is anything specific that I can do to help, please let me know (I also may be able to enlist Victor to work with me).

    Of all of the cities in Russia, St. Petersburg is a quite appropriate city for Manifesta 10 to be held in since much of Russia’s cultural and intellectual heritage historically has been concentrated in St. Petersburg. Whether we are talking about writers, poets, philosophers, historians, musicians, composers, conductors, inventors, scientists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, artists, architects, royalty, government officials, ballerinas, figure skaters, gymnasts, football players, the more than 870-day Siege of Leningrad (Leningrad Blockade), or human rights activists, St. Petersburg stands at the forefront of innovation, endurance, inclusiveness, and PROGRESS.

    Please allow St. Petersburg and its residents the opportunity to welcome Manifesta 10 to our beautiful and friendly city and to support Manifesta in its organizational model concentrating on openness, adaptability, and the transfer of knowledge (“The survival and growth of Manifesta’s organizational model is due to its openness of policy, its facility for adaptation, its key desire for the of transfer knowledge, and its continuous stream of activity, of which the exhibitions play an essential role” –

    In closing, to know Russia is to love her “warts and all”, while at the same time defending such universal values as respect, tolerance, kindness, goodwill, peace, cooperation, and trust.
    Given strong desire and commitment, I am certain that Manifesta can come up with some creative and quite effective ways as a part of Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg to address the grievances that Manifesta, its members, partners, and followers have with Russia in such a manner that Manifesta can HELP Russia and Russians to GROW TOLERANCE.

    For example, Manifesta may choose to draft an official statement to be placed at the entrance to Manifesta 10 about WHY it seriously considered canceling Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg and WHY ultimately it chose not to do so.
    In addition, Manifesta may choose to reflect its views about its grievances with Russia in some of the artwork itself that is selected to be included in Manifesta 10.
    While I can come up with other ideas for your consideration, suffice it to say that “where there is a will, there is ALWAYS a way”.

    Finally, I did not have sufficient time to edit this letter to my usual liking, so if there is anything in this letter that offends you please know that this is definitely NOT my intent.

    Rather, my intent is to bring more of us human beings together to support things such as Manifesta 10 that are dear to our hearts and intellects, all the while using our differences and grievances to build bridges to each other and to help each other grow.

    Thank you so much for allowing me to share with you my concerns and for considering them with an objective and open spirit.

    Respectfully submitted and with best regards for a successful Manifesta 10 at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia,

    Cheryl Ann Sigsbee

  2. Anukalor permalink
    March 24, 2014 12:36 PM


  3. March 15, 2014 11:56 AM

    Thanks, Corina. Will pass this on to where a similar discussion is ongoing, concerning calls to move an ICOM [International Committee on Museums] conference scheduled in September in St. Petersburg. In the meantime I can’t help but note the unconscious irony in the following statement:

    “…the tone of westocentric superiority and many European double standards, waging a moral struggle of values. This is in fact one of those moments when art really is especially needed if it wants to engage in a critical way with the complexities and conflicts of our time.”

    The idea that “art really is especially needed” is not a westocentric idea? Who knew?”


  1. Манифеста, протестующие и список поддерживающих | Baibakov Art Projects
  2. Principles’ Day Out: Manifesta’s Destiny, Posthumous Petition-signers and Boycotters branded as Hypocrites | Baibakov Art Projects
  3. Chto delat trekt zich terug van Manifesta 10 « Leesmagazijn


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