Manifesta 10

Manifesta Will Not Boycott Russia Over LGBT Abuses: ‘Engagement Is Important’

The Hermitage, the site of Manifesta 10. (Photo by A. Salvin/Wikimedia)

The Hermitage, the site of Manifesta 10. (Photo by A. Salvin/Wikimedia)

Though some have called on Manifesta to cancel its 10th edition, which is to open in St. Petersburg next year, because of the Russian government’s recent crackdown on the LGBT community, the organization said it was going ahead with its plans, saying that “on principle [it] cannot and should not only perform in the ‘safe haven’ of the West or former West. This inevitably involves dialogue with those with whom we may disagree.”

“Within Russia Manifesta 10 has been welcomed by many individuals who recognize that canceling or postponing it will be a loss, not only for communities seeking change, but also for developing a progressive contemporary culture as a whole,” Manifesta’s chair, Viktor Misiano, said in a statement. “We are conscious of the political climate and the significant conservative shift taking place in Russia, of which this issue is but one example. It is also helpful to know that the leading LGBT organizations in Russia do not support a boycott of the Olympics or other events. They know engagement is important.”

Full statements from various stakeholders follow below:

Viktor Misiano, chair of the Manifesta Foundation, says:
“Within Russia Manifesta 10 has been welcomed by many individuals who recognize that canceling or postponing it will be a loss, not only for communities seeking change, but also for developing a progressive contemporary culture as a whole. We are conscious of the political climate and the significant conservative shift taking place in Russia, of which this issue is but one example. It is also helpful to know that the leading LGBT organizations in Russia do not support a boycott of the Olympics or other events. They know engagement is important.”
St. Petersburg-­‐based LGBT organization Coming Out states:
“We at Coming Out are very grateful for any kind of international support to LGBT citizens in Russia as it is important that people do not feel further isolated in the current climate of repressions, homophobic aggression, and intimidation. We understand the call for a boycott of the Olympics. But we truly believe it is important to keep all channels open and enable all possible communications to challenge human rights violations at every opportunity, whether they are cultural or sporting events, business opportunities or political campaigns.”
Sjeng Scheijen, artistic director of the Russian/Dutch bi-­lateral year, says:
“The cultural world in Russia is one of the places where an alternative, independent intellectual life takes place. Manifesta 10 is supported in Russia by a spirited forefront of independent, critical, internationally oriented artists and intellectuals. They have a great need for a platform for meeting and exchange, and seek international models for their own cultural events. They eagerly look forward to the arrival of Manifesta.”
Manifesta Founder and Director Hedwig Fijen said today:
“Manifesta is an advocate of having mutual respect for any person regardless of their sex, race, color, ethnic or social origin, disability, age or sexual orientation. Manifesta Foundation endorses the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention for Human Rights, Council of Europe Recommendations and other decrees by international organizations, of which Russia is a member. Manifesta aims to engage in a genuine dialogue with the larger artistic and general communities in St. Petersburg and the Russian federation. To withdraw would mean to ignore the voices of our contemporaries and emerging generations in Russia. In developing this project in Russia we have listened to representatives of the Russian LGBT communities and we have overwhelmingly heard that Manifesta’s presence is both welcomed and necessary. We do not believe isolating Russia is the right direction to take, especially as it deprives younger people of access to a broader scope of voices and points of view.”
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