The Former Land
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";
EuroasianOsebje. "With the EuroasianOsebje, Beuys transcribes
the elimination of the East-West antithesis. The Osebje 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.) EuroasianOsebje
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
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,
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
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 Zgodovina. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.