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.

Manifesta 4 took place in 2002 in more than 15 venues and urban sites in the city of Frankfurt/Main and more than a dozen theoreticians played a major role in site-related workshops, discussions and programmes.

Frankfurt was selected to host the fourth edition of Manifesta, with over 90 international artists and collectives, on account of its excellent cultural infrastructure, the city’s role as financial centre of the Eurozone, and the great willingness of individuals and institutions in the city to support the event.

Manifesta 4’s collective of three female curators from Bulgaria, Spain and France aimed to move away from a focus on specific political and geographical areas, and to concentrate rather on developments in contemporary artistic practice across the continent of Europe. They eschewed an overarching theme in favour of putting mobility, process and interactions around exhibitionmaking and critical cultural theory at the heart of the project.

The festive opening event of Manifesta 4 took place at the Maincafé, Frankfurt/Main.

Manifesta 4 followed the digital, archival and artistic practices turning up for the first time in a changing digital and analogue context of a revolving city, as Frankfurt was identified. The project reveals the contradictions of the present, the various ways artists are dealing with the challenges of the digital timeframe, archiving at the same time the histories of the past. and dealing with the classical relationships between time and space.

As part of Manifesta 4, the curators publicly displayed the dossiers of all the artists they had considered, including those that were not selected. A range of cultural institutions and media organisations, including a library, a radio station, an ethnological institute and an independent art publisher, collaborated in organising participatory and interdisciplinary aspects of the biennial.

The edition’s vast and varied topography allowed the display of newly commissioned artworks in Frankfurt’s diverse public and institutional spaces, including the riverbanks and subway stations.

The community-based, public art project TAMA (Temporary Autonomous Museum for All) was conceptualised by the Greek artist Maria Papadimitriou in Avliza, near Athens, which is occupied by Roma and Vlach-Romanian Greeks. For Manifesta 4 in Frankfurt a large screen was installed at the train station, on which the video T.A.M.A sentimental was projected.

Positioned in front of the screen were white plastic chairs, also known as “Gypsy’s chairs” in Greece because they are often sold by Romani vendors. The installation referred to the Roma people’s temporary appropriations of any place, while also offering train travellers a place to rest.

In addition there was the Manifesta 4 Gasthof programme which in collaboration with Frankfurt’s art academy the Staatlichen Hochschule für Bildende Künste and Daniel Birnbaum offered an extensive public programme parallel to Manifesta 4. They hosted hundreds of art students from international art academies for a week, providing them with accommodation and enabling them to visit the biennial and engage in workshops with renowned artists.

Gasthof questioned the status and format of the art academy and was ultimately the precursory model for Manifesta 6 in Nicosia.

The Norwegian/Icelandic artist Anna Gudmundsdotti’s project consisted of large-format wall drawings. Through her signature comic-strip style she confronted viewers with playful and ironic reflections on social, political and cultural themes. Her imagery included oversized animals, graphics of human anatomy, emblematic signs and comic strip balloons containing slogan-like statements.