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 6 was cancelled by the President of the Greek Part of Cyprus

The self-composed collective consisted of German curator Florian Waldfovel, American Russian Anton Vidokie and Egyptian Mai Abu ElDahab, who worked together with General Coordinator Yiannis Toumazis and Director Hedwig Fijen on a pre-biennial research model called the Manifesta 6 Coffee Breaks which took place 5 months before the opening of the school in 2006 in the Northern territories of the city of Nicosia.

15 artists in residence organisations from all over Europe and US were invited to share their ideas about a new living and working space in Manifesta 6 to be positioned on both sides of the Green Line.

Manifesta 6 was planned to be hosted in the divided city of Nicosia, the culturally and politically divided Turkish-Greek capital of Cyprus, geographically isolated from Europe and located close to the Middle East. Cyrpus was accepted to become a member of the European Union without solving the issue between the Northern and Southern parts. Manifesta 6 was cancelled by the President of the Greek Part of Cyprus, freezing the bank accounts of International Foundation Manifesta and starting lawsuits against Manifesta.

In keeping with Manifesta’s goal to open a dialogue between European artists, changing political contexts and how the learning and training facilities could relate to this, the intention with Manifesta 6 was to rethink the traditional biennial model by turning it into an experimental art school that would take place on both the Greek and the Turkish side of the city of Nicosia which was divided by the Green Line protected by the UN.

The Manifesta 6 School was to be comprised of three departments that revolved around diverse cultural issues and debates, with each department proposing a different structural model for interdisciplinary art education.

The Manifesta 6 School was envisioned as a postgraduate, transdisciplinary programme for approximately 90 participants from many parts of the world, lasting about 12 weeks, selected based on an Open Call. Inspired by historical examples, such as Black Mountain College in the US and the Bauhaus in Germany, the Manifesta 6 School would have been a meeting ground for cultural producers in the region and beyond, as well as a platform for collaboration, discussion and co-production.

The Manifesta Coffee Breaks were an informal public brainstorming session, leading up to the 6th edition of the European Biennial of Contemporary Art. Focusing on art education, the Coffee Break, attempted to consider the possibilities and problems of art education, engaging participants and audiences with the issues at hand: goals and structure of a school, its ideological contexts, its possibilities for relevant cultural production, its relationship to social, political and geographical conditions and the level of its discursive involvement.

Through this new model, Manifesta 6 intended to play a modest role in developing new forms of cultural partnership, not only within the new Europe, but particularly between Europe and its immediate eastern Mediterranean neighbours. Such cultural partnerships in the context of Nicosia, a city located on the furthermost edge of the European Community and divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors, specifically implied engagement and presence in both communities inhabiting the city. The curators from Egypt, Russia and Germany, proposed the creation of a bi-communal school by locating a part of it on the Turkish side of the border. This proposition escalated existing tensions with the Greek Cypriot authorities and they cancelled the project three months before the opening.

The Manifesta 6 office. The team consisted out of locals from both the Greek and the Turkish side of the island of Cyprus and a core team from the Netherlands.

Curator Anton Vidokle took the plans and turned them into United Nations Plaza, a temporary school structured as a seminar and residency programme in the city of Berlin. The project involved collaboration with approximately 30 artists, writers, theorists and a wide range of audiences for a period of one year. In the tradition of Free Universities, most of its events were open to all those interested in taking part. United Nations Plaza was organised by Vidokle together with a number of collaborators.