Summary of Manifesta 14 Open Forum
On Tuesday the 15th of February, Manifesta 14 held its first Open Forum in the Red Hall of the Palace of Youth in Prishtina and presented the findings of our pre-biennial research process of the last six-months, reflecting on how this has been translated into the programme of Manifesta 14.
These findings came from a series of Citizen Consultations conducted by Manifesta 14 including 130 Prishtina citizens, experts and civil society representatives, followed by a Public Survey with 300 participants from across Prishtina and surrounding areas. The design component was conceptualised by Studio L A, an architectural studio based in the Netherlands, and implemented by the Manifesta 14 Prishtina Education team, in collaboration with Applicative Research Solutions (ARS), NGO Aktiv and Termokiss.
The Citizen Consultation and public survey findings raised issues such as how to deal with the decentralisation of cultural activities and neglect of the outskirts of the capital and rural areas, the lack of accessible venues for disabled people, the absence of inclusivity in cultural decision making and the need to support LGBT+ cultural initiatives. After Aliriza Arenliu presented the most pressing concerns for the community, Manifesta Founding Director Hedwig Fijen discussed how Manifesta 14 is translating these into concrete projects and goals of the biennial.
The Citizen Consultations and research form part of the pre-biennial programme of Manifesta 14 and aim to offer a wider perspective on how contemporary culture, urban development and social/cultural policies function in Prishtina. The results create an opportunity for Manifesta, together with the citizens of Prishtina, to explore, explain and reflect upon the complexity of the cultural landscape in the city, but also how Manifesta 14 is translating these findings into strategies for change.
Four of these findings are included in the development of the Hivzi Sylejmani Library, the permanent institution that will be created by Manifesta 14. For example, to address issues around green space and ecology Manifesta will create a community garden. Concerns around diversity, of different forms, are addressed through creating activities for different communities and in a variety of languages and ensuring the building and garden are wheelchair accessible. Further, transparency is central to how Manifesta’s team will work with people from the neighbourhood, creating an open institution for the whole community to enjoy.
When considering the impact this research could have on Prishtina, we look to Manifesta 13 Marseille, where the last Manifesta edition took place. During Manifesta 13, Citizen Consultations were so valuable to the community that a permanent Citizens’ Advisory Council was established at the Municipal Council of Marseille.
When we started Manifesta 14 three years ago, the focus was on transforming the biennial into a more sustainable practice and leaving both a material and immaterial legacy. Being nomadic meant that we had to adapt to new geographical contexts. For every edition, we transform the way we organise ourselves and adapt a new methodology to help transform cities as well as connect Manifesta to the reality of each Host City. This is the reason why Manifesta never acts solely inside an artistic bubble, but pro-actively engages with the existing political and social context.
– Hedwig Fijen, Manifesta 14 Director
The pre-biennial research is central to how Manifesta operates. As a nomadic biennial focussing on knowledge production, Manifesta implements strategies based around the needs and interests of local communities. Moving away from the traditional biennial model, we transformed our organisation into an interdisciplinary, knowledge and research production platform, focusing on creating social change through participatory practices.
The city of Prishtina initially invited Manifesta to organise a programme to develop long term cultural strategies at three different levels: how to reclaim public space, how to recreate a sense of collectivity and how to rethink the future of Prishtina as an open-minded metropolis in the heart of the Balkans. This inclusive, community-focussed research process is part of Manifesta’s response to this brief.
At the Open Forum, the response to this research was positive. The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajrullah Çeku, stated that this research will serve all of Prishtina, because “through this we can thoroughly understand the needs, requirements and expectation of the citizens from cultural institutions.” The newly elected Mayor of the Municipality of Prishtina, Përparim Rama, also spoke. In addition to opening the door for collaboration, Rama stated that Manifesta 14 will influence the urban transformation of Prishtina. Rama also highlighted how the Municipality of Prishtina will accommodate the influx of visitors during Manifesta 14. Based on the previous editions of Manifesta, Rama expects to welcome thousands of visitors during the 100 days of the biennial.
Manifesta 14 Prishtina will take place from the 22nd of July until the 30th of October 2022 and its programme will be announced at the beginning of April this year.
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