It also includes the exhibition Self-splaining (Triumph of Empathy), part of the parallel program "Western Balkans", which is implemented in partnership with ICA-Sofia and includes works by 25 artists working in Bulgaria.
Kosovo is the epitome of the complexities we face in our times – the recognition of a nation, visa-free movement, coexistence with different peoples, and, in principle, acceptance of difference. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the curators Catherine Nichols and Carlo Ratti with his design and innovation agency Carlo Ratti Associati are called 'creative mediators’. With his method of participatory urbanism, Ratti aims to activate the neglected longing for change and a number of processes that turn Manifesta into an opportunity to understand urban phenomena and reclaim public space. On the other hand, under the title it matters what worlds world worlds: how to tell stories otherwise Catherine Nichols employs narratives to make sense of the horrors of the past and an opportunity to imagine a new future, using art as a vehicle for social change. These are narratives that use the poetics of living space, the dialogue between space and the individual, and the techniques of constructing a narrative in architectural space as belonging and uniting people around a common cause. It is for a reason that for the first time in Manifesta's history, a new cultural institution has been activated that aims to be permanent: the Centre for Narrative Practice, a long-term interdisciplinary project for which the Biennial will provide financial support in its first years. It remains an open question how it will be managed, who will take care of it after the Biennial is over.
One of the most effective installations in the exhibition for me was the work of Cevdet Erek, Brutal Times (2022): a spatial installation based on sounds and lights that inhabit one of the icons of Brutalist architecture, the Rilindja Press Palace, from the 1970s, then the headquarters of the publishing house of the Albanian newspaper Rilindja. The artist uses sound and light to link the newspaper production process with techno music (one second of the work is one day of history). Another installation is by the Rwandan artist Cristian Niyampeta, who participates with Sometimes It Was Beautiful (2018), projected on a big screen in the abandoned 1950s cinema Rinia. Niyampeta's work was inspired by Senegalese writer and filmmaker Ousmane Sembène's (1923-2007) idea of cinema as a site for collective learning, a means of social intervention, an effective tool for engaging a wider audience, and the cinema seating in the project was provided by various people from Pristina, bearing their individual stories.
Luchezar Boyadjiev, curator:
As individual works, I would point to Petrit Halilaj's intervention, visible to all, on the roof of the Grand Hotel Pristina, the main venue of M14; Cevdet Erek's endlessly empathetic sound installation in the former printing house; Lee Bul's “zeppelin” in the former sports hall of the Palace of Youth and Sports. As well as the performances by Selma Selman at the National Gallery of Kosovo, and Miryana Todorova's work, again at the Grand Hotel Pristina. I’d especially like to mention the wonderful work on the renovation and recycling of the old Hivzi Sylejmani Library in Pristina. In October 2021, during our preliminary visit to Pristina with Kalin Serapionov (with whom we did the exhibition Self-splaining on behalf of ICA-Sofia), we saw it in a romantic but completely abandoned form. Now it has been reborn for a new life and, if an active community of artists in Kosovo embraces it in the future, this will be a truly wonderful ‘legacy’ left by M14 for the city!"
"Pristina is a particularly welcoming city, wrapped in a growing and fast-moving capitalist dynamic. You can feel the fluctuation of people, cars, and capital coming mainly from Western Europe. At the same time, symbols, layers, and outlines of the recent past are visible and tangible but seem to be fading away. The Nomadic Biennial thus feels quite at home on this complex terrain, and the choice of the main location – Grand Hotel Pristina – is more than successful. You can immerse without forgetting where you are. You can climb floors and jump over large mental territories, while not losing touch with the outside, with the center. I was most impressed by Marta Popivoda's work, Yugoslavia, How Ideology Moved Our Collective Body (2013). As part of the last generation of pioneers in Tito's Yugoslavia, Marta Popivoda explores how ideology is expressed in public space through mass choreographies, sports, and youth manifestations and celebrations. The idea of brotherhood, love and unity was manifested in socialist society through the so-called "social choreography" practiced in public spaces. Later, this same social choreography became social drama – the Gazimestan speech of Milošević, the mass protests against his rule, events, and moments in history that carried the sense that change was possible. The video work analyzes television archival material from 1945–2000, and seeks to understand what kept the collective body together, but also how and why its disintegration occurred.
Viktoria Draganova, curator:
"Through its focus on the Balkans, this year's Manifesta seemed to raise anew the issue of belonging, opening up the question of what are the issues and problems that a community decides to put before itself. This also resonates with the times of strong localism and the need for introspection, care and local activism during the Covid crisis. The opening itself was a fiesta with the entire Kosovar pop scene and all the dignitaries in attendance. Such a forum, without the cooperation of local and state structures and its openness to the whole cultural scene, would have been unthinkable – which is perhaps why it is still so unfeasible here in Sofia.
"The incredible energy of Prishtina, which reminds me a bit of Sofia in the 90s, combined with the large number of local artists and the untypical venues for exhibitions, such as a semi-abandoned hotel in the city centre, the printing house of the local party newspaper and a giant Yugoslav-era sports hall used as a parking lot, make this edition of Manifesta a success. I was particularly impressed by the video trilogy by Driant Zeneli, The Animals (2019/21/22), shown on the 9th floor of the Grand Hotel Prishtina, in which three iconic buildings from the socialist era in Prishtina, Skopje and Tirana become the backdrop for three fables by Aesop, acted out with paper animals. The video manages to escape the clichés that are typical when working with such buildings, and that are visible with the image of Buzludzha, for example. An interesting decision is the inclusion in the exhibition in Grand Hotel Prishtina of a booth with jars of pickles, ajvar and the local variety of "paprika u pavlaci". The goods are produced by the Kosovar Agricultural Cooperative Krusha. It was founded by a local woman whose husband disappeared without a trace during the 1999 war, along with 242 other men from the village who were allegedly victims of a mass murder committed by Serbian forces. Today, the cooperative employs 50 women, the products are on the shelves of all supermarkets in Prishtina, and a community finds its feet thanks to a cooperative effort despite the turbo-capitalist conditions.
Kooperativa Bujqësore Krusha [Agricultural Cooperative Krusha], 2022, © Fahrije Hoti and the Women of Krushë e Madhe. Photo © Manifesta 14 Prishtina / Majlinda Hoxha
To a large extent, my impressions are also related to the preparation of Self-Splaining (a Triumph of Empathy), as well as my participation in the Centre for Narrative Practice through the invitation of the 0GMS Gallery. Outside of these, I was particularly strongly drawn to the work of Ukrainian artist Alevtina Kakhidze, in which she addresses various topics such as abduction, domination and belonging through the perspective of plants. Wonderful is the work Above Everyone (2022) by Alban Muja, a small house perched on the building of a former department store, as a reaction to the present and the issue of ownership in relation to the postwar period in Kosovo when illegal constructions appeared on many buildings. All this together with the big (good) stray dogs that accompanied us to our "home", the KFOR troops in the streets, the salep in the cafés, the miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty on one of the hotels, the many meetings and conversations, formed a kind of general and diverse picture in my mind."
"My impressions of Manifesta are primarily defined by my participation in a summer school that was part of the official Manifesta program dedicated to the redevelopment of an abandoned brick factory on the outskirts of Pristina and led by raumlaborberlin, a collective of experimental architects and urbanists. Thanks to them, the factory was transformed into a place for ecologically conscious learning and 'making'. Particularly valuable were the moments of (self)reflection connected to the place. "Only we know what happened here, but nobody ever asks us. Our bodies carry the history of the factory.". This was written on a fragment of the mural created during a workshop with the mentors Klodiana Millona and Veronika Zaripova. The words are those of one of the men who had worked in the factory in the recent past, and remind me of a number of discussions that arose during the process: what is our role in recontextualizing such a historically and socially charged place? Who will these newly built structures (pool, garden, kitchen) be for? How can we give sustainability to what we create – and how can we make sure that it is not simply a transfer of models established elsewhere, but a delicate and carefully considered gesture, in keeping with the place and the people to whom it originally belongs; with their past, present and future; with a particular sensibility and worldview? The two weeks I spent in Pristina reminded me of the importance of approaching local potential for rebuilding and co-building with particular care, and left me with the sense of a very special sharing of histories, nuances, contexts, ways of being."
Find more at: journalforsocialvision.org