Apples and Oranges

The nomadic biennial exhibition of contemporary art, Manifesta 10, held this year at St Petersburg, last week closed its doors. But not everybody seemed to be in the know.
The decision to stage Manifesta in St Petersburg clearly corresponded with its mission ‘to examine the cultural topography of Europe’, selecting peripheral cities as its host. Or, in short, to organize large-scale conceptual art exhibitions, in places ‘off the beaten track’.
Manifesta 10 was described by curator Kasper König as a a Manifesta without a manifesto.

“Its goal is not to make a claim or pronounce a truth … Not a revolutionary storming of the (Winter) palace.”

In view of the current political situation, selecting St Petersburg as host city was a defiant choice, a decision that could only lead to compromise and mixed reactions. But the choice was made. Make your bed and lie in it.
Which leads us to the bedroom.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook revealed that he is gay. No surprise for some, info-overkill for others. For Cook however, the revelation was a major personal step in advocating his adherence to, empathy with and support for the LGBT community.

“Let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

This is a bold statement; an announcement some people in Russia have taken issue with. And they have taken it out on a a statue.
The oversized iPhone with a touch screen that displayed information about Steve Jobs and the company he co-founded is no more.

Contemporary art implies novelty, something different, radical. The breaking of boundaries. Making Waves.
Manifesta fashionably placed its art installations in historical surroundings, hoping to create a new context to experience the interaction between the old and the new with as result a synthesis in the Winter Palace, accompanied by a genuine contemporary art show in the General Staff Building. But there the art stayed, conceptually imprisoned, unable to venture outside of its own space.
Manifesta failed. It failed to reach or convince its closest denizens. The iconoclasts and book burners. The slayers of monuments.

If we want to know what art is, if we want art to be relevant, we have to ask not only what, but where and who and why. Perhaps two years from now, in Zürich, Manifesta 11 will ask itself just that.

One should not compare Apple (sic) and oranges. But perhaps, every so often, one should.