More than 1,000 artists have signed an online petition addressed to curator Kasper König, urging him to suspend Manifesta 10, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, from taking place in St Petersburg this year until Russian troops withdraw from Ukrainian territory.
The petition was initiated by a group of artists from Amsterdam and Düsseldorf and received over 1,000 signatures on Change.org within the first three hours of its publication. “We believe that participation in cultural activities with Russia at this time means legitimisation and acceptance of Russian aggression towards the democratic nation of Ukraine,” the petition stated. Over the weekend, Moscow deployed 16,000 troops to Crimea, it is alleged, raising fears in the west about a possible annexation.
Among the signatories, are Russian artists Dmitry Vrubel, Sergei Mironenko and Larisa Zvezdochetova. However, not Russian artists agree with their position. In an interview with The Calvert Journal earlier this week, Pavel Pepperstein said the recent demonstrations in Ukraine “demonstrates ultra-nationalist tendencies and is supported by the US with the aim of undermining Russia”. He added: “The Russian government has no choice. The prevalence of Russophobia in Europe and the US is similar to that of anti-Semitism in fascist Germany, and will ultimately lead to a nuclear conflict.”
Last September, the roving art biennial, decided to go ahead with the event despite a petition urging organisers to change location in protest at Russia’s anti-gay laws. At the time, Hedwig Fijen, director of Manifesta, said: “To withdraw would mean to ignore the voices of our contemporaries and emerging generations in Russia.”
Manifesta is a peripatetic art biennial which chooses a different host European city everyday two years. Providing a platform for innovative artistic expression, the event plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year in St Petersburg from 28 June to 31 October at the State Hermitage Museum.
- Text: Nadia Beard