MANIFESTA 10, The European Biennial of Contemporary Art, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Manifesta originated in the post-communist period in the 1990s with the aim of balancing the information gap between the East and West, North and South. Offering audiences an opportunity to exchange knowledge and rethink the platforms and influences of art and its expressions, Manifesta considers both the poetic and political nature of art and contextualises the contemporary with the historical. Operating within contested areas allows the biennial to demonstrate the way in which art can aid understanding within this complex world and Manifesta encourages a critical dialogue.

This tenth edition of Manifesta was curated by Berlin-based Kasper König and opened in June with a program that includes Paola Pivi’s Grrr Jamming Squeak at the Kuryokhin Modern Art Center. The piece is ongoing throughout the biennial and visitors are invited to enter a fully-equipped recording studio where they can play and record music accompanied by animal sounds. Sound and music also have their place within the biennial in other ways: in collaboration with the Foundation of Cossack Culture, Deimantas Narkevičius, stages concerts of war songs based on the traditional repertoire of Cossack cultures, whilst Pavel Braila’s Another Noon featured an additional cannon shot from the midday cannon at the Naryshkin bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress on the opening day.

The work on show ranges from film to performance and comprises pieces from both private and public collections and topics vary enormously. Many of the exhibitions reflect on the past, exploring local history and the traditions of collecting and displaying art in public and private settings. Other artworks have been specially commissioned by the biennial, such as Guy Ben-Ner’s Surplus Leisure (2014), which is on display in the Voronikhin Square garden. In this work, which draws on Marx’s concept of surplus labour, exercise equipment from a nearby fitness studio is connected to electric cables and the machines power the projection of a speech from Arnold Schwarzenegger on body-building and the free market. Accompanying the exhibition are a self-aware series of discussions which explore the sociopolitical context of biennials and other major art events with participants from authors to artists, once again confirming Manifesta’s place as an important catalyst for critical debate.

MANIFESTA 10, The European Biennial of Contemporary Art, until 31 October, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia,

1.Otto Zitko, untitled, (2011), keim mineral paint, mumok – museum moderner kunststiftung ludwig wien, Vienna, photo: Lisa Rastl, Vienna, © photo: mumok, Courtesy Krobath Vienna / Berlin and Galería Heinrich Ehrhardt, Madrid

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