Manifesta purposely strives to keep its distance from what are often seen as the dominant centres of artistic production, instead seeking fresh and fertile terrain for the mapping of a new cultural topography.
The 13th edition of Manifesta was an unprecedented enterprise, marked by Covid-19 and its two different national French lockdowns which prevented almost any visits from our international audience. However, Manifesta estimated that more than 120.000 visits were made during the last two years in Marseille and the Region Sud.
Moving away from the traditional exhibition format of biennials, the main ambition of Manifesta 13 was to become more hybrid and locally rooted and to heighten its interdisciplinary and place a distinct focus on citizen participation throughout its activities.
In the years prior to the pandemic, global social-political movements such as Me Too and Black Lives Matter had already profoundly reshaped our artistic agenda. Also, the 13th edition of the biennial came about during a political transition period before local elections in Marseille, as well as during the protest of the Gilets jaunes and the wave of critique of institutional racism in France.
Several pre-biennial research activities were set in motion, starting with an urban study named Le Grand Puzzle that aimed to decipher the possibilities and complexities of Marseille. The study was conducted by Winy Maas, MVRDV’s architect, and his team from The Why Factory. Le Grand Puzzle was a tool with which citizens could rethink the potential of their city and illustrated a path for a new, more accessible urban landscape.
Le Grand Puzzle became a departure point for Le Tour de Tous les Possibles a platform that aimed to increase citizen participation in democratic decision-making. Manifesta commissioned the project in order to include the richness of the diverse but often unheard voices of Marseille’s citizens in the biennial.
In a moment when, across Europe, the institutional pillars of social and political cohesion were being tested and contested, Manifesta 13 created shared spaces for bringing people and ideas together. Traits d’union aimed to create dialogue between two different worlds and to this end the programme worked with Marseille’s existing cultural institutions, symbolically as well as practically.
Proposed by the Education team of Manifesta 13, Le Tiers Programme included three projects: Invisible Archives, GROUP-THINK and Al Moutawassit, as well as a mediation programme in the main biennial venues.