International Biennial of Contemporary Art Ljubljana,
23 June - 24 September 2000
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Cankarjev Dom
M1 & M2

The Former Land
Francesco Bonami

To approach Manifesta as an exhibition is misleading. Manifesta is a "heterotopia", an "other space". Paraphrasing Foucault: Manifesta is a privileged space for the idea of "exhibition" in a rite of passage.

Because of its fluid structure developed when it was conceived and its moving residence, it is impossible to identify Manifesta with any given place or identity. In that respect Manifesta 3 is just a process or maybe more than anything else a "process"; Euroasianstaff. "With the Euroasianstaff, Beuys transcribes the elimination of the East-West antithesis. The staff coming from Asia turns around in the center of Europe. Even when it currently ends "at the Berlin Wall", it moves again toward Asia, to meet there and to close the "electrical circuit", "to link Europe and Asia and to end the antithesis, the polarity of cultures and political system." (Adriani, Konnerts, and Thomas, Joseph Beuys/Life and Works, New York 1979.) Euroasianstaff becomes Manifesta .

This year’s process toward Manifesta takes as pretext psychic retreats. Each step of Manifesta 3 reflects, as a symptom, the contemporary European condition. Even the curatorial team is a symptom and not an attempt to cure the disease. We proceeded not through geography, mapping the region, but by searching the evidence of mental conditions. Cities, countries, borders were not simply places but multiple identities of the European Ego. It is very possible that our self-analysis has failed at many levels, yet failure is an integral part of the process of understanding, the process of mourning the loss of political and cultural isolation, creative autarchy, self-identification. We move around Europe as viruses or dreams, denial and forgetting as part of our journey through a continent in transformation yet lacking its original appeal. Manifesta 3, a therapy in process. It landed finally on the edge of "former Eastern Europe". It was in fact the original idea to establish Manifesta as a tool to bridge to "former Eastern Europe", but since when cultural and political transformations have altered the nature of the compass? Is anybody talking about former Western Europe? If so, when we will talk about former North Africa, former South of Italy, former Asia? Maybe when gender discrimination will end for ever will we talk of former males and former females. When racism will belong to the past we will talk of former whites and former blacks. It’s clear that the adjective "former" implies not simply a geographical position, but a scale of values within economy and culture. A scale of values defined by former Western Europe to maintain supremacy. Ljubljana is the first reality, which goes against this supremacy until now, and the future does not seem much different, the south and the east of Europe have been and will be disregarded. The therapy is just at its beginning and many interruptions and changes lay ahead. It is not yet clear who’s the patient and who’s the doctor. Manifesta as a cultural drug still has many side effects. As a curator I feel I am one of them. Now, just a few weeks away from the official opening of Manifesta 3 I feel like a convalescent patient waiting for visit day in the garden of the asylum. When the relatives and friends will be allowed into the garden they will find all of us waiting in our pyjamas. It will be clear that the therapy is working from our grateful faces. The doctors and the nurses around greeted and complimented by the visiting crowd. Manifesta is a mild drug, a rite of passage, a honey moon hotel situated in a kind of nowhere of our subconsciousness, a syndrome named Europe.

From Psychic Retreats by John Steiner, London 1993 (all the italics by F.B.)

The analyst observes psychic retreats as states of mind in which the patient is stuck, cut off and out of reach… a pictorial or dramatized image of how the retreat is unconsciously experienced. Typically it appears as a house, a cave, a fortress, a desert island… It maybe represented as a business organization, as boarding school, as a religious sect, as a totalitarian government or a Mafia-like gang.

Some patients depend on the organization to protect them from primitive states of fragmentation and persecution, and they fear that states of extreme anxiety would overwhelm them if they were to emerge from the retreat.

Retreat (Borderline position) > Paranoid–schizoid position (Serbia?) or > Depressive position (Belarus?)

When she was still a baby, her family had escaped a country where they experienced political persecution. They were occasionally able to return to visit her grandmother, and these visits and the border crossings they entailed were especially anxious times for her.

The extent of his claustro-agoraphobic anxieties was illustrated when he went to Italy for a holiday. Because of his country of origin he needed a visa, and although he knew this he had simply neglected to get one. When the immigration officials in Rome told him that he would have to return to London he created such a scene, crying and shouting, that they relented and let him in. Once in the country, however, he became frightened that he wouldn’t be allowed out … He, therefore, managed to cajole his friends to take him to the French border which he crossed in the boot of their car, obtained the necessary visa, and re-entered in the normal way to continue his holiday.

He describes how his patients feel themselves to be neither fully inside nor fully outside their objects. (Slovenia?)

While trapped in a psychic retreat they feel claustrophobic, but as soon as they manage to escape they once again panic and return to their previous position. (Northern Ireland, Armenia??)

Another Time Another Europe
When Borderline Syndrome was a career

Fragments from a "Discussion", Parkett Edition 1985 (Translation from Italian by F.B.)
Kiefer: The fact that a bourgeoisie class does not exist any longer is a symptom of something much deeper… I believe there is another important issue. The fact that Europe does not refer to itself any longer… As a consequence Europe is not the center of the world, but an archipelago of Asia.
Kounellis: We witness a sentimental idea of a nation, but the nation itself is missing. Hence it’s a phantom. There is the people, but the nation is defeated and doesn’t exist any longer…
Kiefer: Of course we need to start from Europe. Because what we take from America is mostly the appearance.
Kounellis: America does not exist by itself, it’s a projection. For me the best America is that one by Kafka. We are all attracted by our own projection. But we know very well that America does not have a culture, it’s the American expression of European culture. Here in Europe two cultures exist both impotent, defeated, but still cultures.
Kounellis: Self-awareness means: to read your own condition, hence to read History. The problem is very clear. There are States that are not States. There are cultures without borders. Where in reality are the new borders that give credibility? Before the national border was able to have a certain credibility.
Kiefer: We have to be very careful not to try to rebuild something that doesn’t exist any longer, to rebuild what existed in another time.
Kounellis: The situation of Germany is tragic because it’s divided. A piece is missing.
Kiefer: It wouldn’t be like this if we would have a united Europe. As De Gaulle used to say "To the Urals".
Kiefer: It’s true, Italy can survive without the idea of a State.
Kounellis: Now that the States don’t exist any longer we can say that we are the vanguard. Everything is a miracle, there is the "underground economy", and there is the "historical compromise". …In England this would mean to commit suicide, in Italy it means life.
Kiefer: For every German policeman we need a foreign worker.
Kounellis: In spite of all these differences, when we talk of a European reality, means, that to be concrete the Italian territory or German territory are not tied enough with their structure and State. It’s a matter of credibility.
Kiefer: Kounellis thinks that a nation is too small to find itself.
Kounellis: It’s not a matter of size, it’s a matter of integrity. Germany is divided and Italy is incapable of a foreign policy.
Kiefer: Sure, I want to say that the nation as an idea is too small. The idea of disregarding the borders of the small State was born during the Biedermeier period, after the Congress of Vienna, during the heavy period of Metternich. At that time there were some revolutionaries who had the idea of a German State with natural borders: from the Maas to the Memel and from the Etsch to the Belt. The idea was romantic not chauvinistic. It was an idea to reunify different people in one State. Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the national anthem ("Deutschland über alles…") The first stanza today is censored, "…von der Maas bis zur Memel…" Beuys: But we don’t live in the time of Goya anymore. What was important for Goya and what he represented now has been destroyed. Spain enters into the European market and Goya couldn’t stop this. Maybe this represents the fall of Spain.
Kounellis: This is a small event compared to the greatness of Spanish culture. It’s as small as communism compared to Russian history.
Kounellis: ...The goal is Europe, not as a European Community, but as a European awareness, which stems out from World War II. Beuys: If I could do something for America I would do it.
Kounellis: There is a big planet called Russia, untouched, where a great storage of culture is constantly ignored. Beuys: There is a big planet called Germany still untouched.
Kounellis: Gilbert, from Gilbert & George, who is Austrian, lately talked about the relationship that exists in Austria between the Slavic cultures and the Germanic culture. For him, an Austrian is almost Slavic, because there are psychological reasons that make him different from a German. Beuys: Sure. In the Austro-Hungarian empire most of the people were Slavic. In Germany the Slavic character expanded as far as Hamburg. From a spiritual point of view this is a very interesting phenomenon. The "spirit" of Eastern Europe and that one of Western Europe meet in Central Europe. The goal of Germany was to create harmony. Yet the Germans did not understand their mission and let the world war start…The heart of Europe is in Germany and in the middle of its heart runs the Wall.
Kiefer: ...Germany went adrift. Beuys: We didn’t go adrift because Germany won the war. The English are the ones who lost the war. Cucchi: We once again need to begin the millenary journey across the borders. It’s like a big massage to the heart of our ideal borders…
Kounellis: The two world wars have been historical episodes and this doesn’t have any implications. Beuys: The Basque are the remains of nomadic people…They didn’t develop their own literature, everything is related to an oral tradition…The Spanish government deny the autonomy to the Basque and that’s why they are causing troubles similar to those in Northern Ireland. In Spain I proposed to grant the Basque total autonomy… If the Basque would gain full autonomy they would do definitely something different. It could be a great opportunity to develop a model that could be seen as a work of art. Then we could join them to develop a model that would work for the entire world.
Kounellis: In Europe there are so many people that claim their autonomy: Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica etc., etc. Beuys: Maybe the Basques can develop a better structure for Europe. Because they start from scratch.
Kounellis: The Basque Country will never be able to be a model for Germany. It’s an impossible metaphor to gain freedom, because the Basque don’t have written language. Beuys: The Basque speak perfectly Spanish…
Kounellis: We talk about a certain possibility inside Europe, where cultures are very close to each other, in spite of all the differences. Cucchi: Talking about character and differences, once looking at a German shepherd, which is a very common dog in Europe, I realized that this creature looked clearly alike all the faces we see in the European world. When I look at Warhol’s face I cannot find any resemblance.


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