Manifesta is suffering from organizational issues, its Chief Curator Kasper König admitted last week in an interview with German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle. These problems, if not resolved, may have grave consequences for the event, which is slated to open at the end of June. König reports that the Russian staff have not been paid for seven weeks.
The most damning part of the interview, which is slightly different (and more urgent) in the Russian translation, has been translated by The Calvert Journal:
They [Russian workers] don’t have unions looking out for them there. And quite honestly, I’m allergic to situations where I have to act as a go-between between the two systems: Manifesta on the one hand, with its American-positivist perspectives, its missionary-like position bordering on religious — and the Russian side with its strategy of dragging on everything, not filling promises and so on. As a result, with a month to the exhibition’s opening, we’ve reached an impasse: nothing’s happening.
The issue, as is stated in the English language Deutsche Welle interview, has to do with the fact that, according to König, “Practically anyone can make a law and it’s waved through as long as the person has enough money and power.” As evidence, he pointed to the “appalling anti-gay law” that was passed. This sentiment was augmented in the Moscow Times, which cited the State Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky’s interview with The Financial Times on the same subject. “The anti-gay legislation is nothing in comparison with the real legislation that we have,” Piotrovsky said. “We have legislation against hurting religious feelings … and this is terrible … Gay legislation is just a small part. Piotrovksy ran into trouble with this law after organizing a screening of the Chapman Brothers’ show, “The End of Fun,” which contains scenes of an orgy Orthodox Christians found offensive.
Politics aside, the basic needs of the organization are not being met. “In addition to everything else, there have also been problems with cash flow,” König told Deutsche Welle. “I’m bothered by the Russian tendency of having to come to terms with so many things and by the passiveness.” In addition, König lamented the Russian media. “I’ve stopped watching Russian television – I can’t stand the brainwashing anymore.”