The biennale was an initiative led by Hedwig Fijen and Jolie van Leeuwen, aiming to create a format for a travelling art manifestation based in local institutes in different cities every two years. Manifesta 1 was held in 16 art institutions and 36 public spaces in Rotterdam – including Villa Alckmaer – the predecessor of TENT – , Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and V2_ – and was one of the first international biennales to advocate cooperation with local institutions and artists on such a large scale. Another remarkable part of Manifesta 1 was the selection of not one, but five curators: Katalyn Neray (Hungary), Rosa Martinez (Spain), Viktor Misiano (Russia), Andrew Renton (United Kingdom), and Hans-Ulrich Obrist (Switzerland).
The first edition of Manifesta focused on subjects related to contemporary Europe, such as migration, translation and communication, community and politics. All the works displayed at Manifesta 1 were specially made for this edition and many of the participating artists, now world-renown, where exhibiting outside their own countries for the first time in their career. In this archival presentation next to the contributions done by artists such as Maria Eichhorn (Germany), Roman Ondák (Slovakia), Ayse Erkmen (Turkey), Vadim Fishkin (Russia), IRWIN (Slovenia), and Huang Yong Ping (France/China), special attention is given to the work of Russian artist Oleg Kulik and NEsTWORK, a Rotterdam based artist initiative.
During Manifesta, Oleg Kulik performed Pavlov’s Dog – now known as a key piece in his oeuvre. For weeks Kulik took on the identity of a dog, living 24 hours a day at V2_ Institute for the Unstable Media while taking intelligence and physical tests in a ‘laboratory’. NEsTWORK was an initiative by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk, set to give Manifesta roots in the local art community. This diverse group of Rotterdam based artists created eighty-seven daily programs with activities, performances, concerts, films, lectures and debates at several locations in the city.
Rotterdam Cultural Histories is a collaborative project between TENT and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art that explores our common roots in Rotterdam and articulates meeting points between both of our programs. Rotterdam Cultural Histories is conceived by Defne Ayas (Director of Witte de With) and Mariette Dölle (former Artistic Director, TENT).