CREATIVITY IS VALUABLE,
TALKING WITH HEDWIG FIJEN
by Fulvio Ravagnani
Hedwig Fijen she is founding director of Manifesta, the European Biennial of Contemporary art.
Under Fijen’s direction Manifesta has developed into the fourth most influential biennial in the world. Ms. Fijen is in charge of all aspects of the Manifesta organization including the selection of Host cities, thematic content and the curatorial selection. The final execution of the concept of the curators is her responsibility. Before Manifesta, Fijen worked as a curator at The Netherlands Office for Fine Arts and has worked in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Cuba and many other countries. We met her to make the point on the state of health of creativity.
In a split world like our divided by many concrete problems, does creativity still have value in your opinion?
Every two years we have to think about how to select a city that is an example or a mirror to what Europe is today; so, the selection of the city is also a reflection of what kind of complexities we face in Europe. Switzerland is an interesting country because on June 5, 2016 (just five days before Manifesta 11 opened), they had a vote on implementing an unconditional basic income. They were deciding if every Swiss person – rich or poor – should get paid the same monthly sum. Now, even in Holland they are speaking about this basic income; Germany has started experiments, New Zealand, too... A lot of scientists already know that the fourth industrial revolution is going to be about biotechnology – we could produce a lot of food without farmers working every day, automatization... maybe there will be cars without drivers... digitalization – we won’t need banks – all financial systems will be digital. These are the questions that are being raised about the future of Europe's citizens. So, this is why the work that we do before the curator comes in, is really important. We research very precisely what is happening in the country in question – what are the signs of the times, and what will perhaps happen in 20 years' time. The results will be presented in an interdisciplinary and trans-historical model. So yes, I do think creativity is valuable and a way to reflect on a world of many concrete problems.
Speaking about creative young people; how can we really help them to emerge?
One of the main aspects of Manifesta is being inter-generational. We encourage artists from the second or third generations to work together with very young people, and for young artists – to reinvent the works of older artists.
What are the secret ingredients of this edition of Manifesta?
For the second decade Manifesta will concentrate on the disturbed solidarity between North and South of Europe and the rest oft he world which means on global economic issues which are now highlighted in What people do for money in M11 in Zurich or the selection of the next Manifesta cities in both Palermo (M12) and Marseille (M13). For a long time now, Manifesta has been focusing on more than artistic impulses only. Manifesta is mostly used as a critical reflection upon local topography more over to analyse what is happening in the heart of Europe in an neutral country which is called Switzerland which is in our view in the current stat of fragility of Europe very actual also seen in the light oft he Brexit and other Next it’s how should Europe survive? What is neutrality and what does this mean in today’s Europe. At the same time Zurich has an overkill on institutions but no audiences in a broad sense of the wording. We have been invited to do a Manifesta in Zurich to understand also how we could mediate new audiences and interact with the city at large and that has been a success. Manifesta 11 has been a proof that a biennial proofs itself when ist able to really implement itself in the tissues of the city, here with involving professions but also many volunteers, professional organizations, learning organizations etc in the biennial. Ist a typical bottom-up approach not starting with the art institutions itself but with the people and grassroots organizations itself. M11 is an approach to analyze the professional way in which people work in the artworld, in a changing society, and in Europe, work is our life but maybe not anymore our daily future. We selected German artist Christian Jankowski and his team of Francesca Gavin, Maria Isserlis, and Georgina Casparis since we wanted to experiment with an artist as curator in the context of the current Dada year. As we wanted to reach out to people and see if we can help to create a new audience for contemporary art. We will only know this after the M11, although many visitors attended until now.
Some other international organization that does a good job?
The 4th International Çanakkale Biennial in Turkey which was founded by Biral Madra, provides an open communication and a collaboration platform for the international community and enables a comprehensive revaluation of the impacts of 1st World War and the 20th century at local, national and international levels on today’s political configuration and the historical geography of the Ottoman Empire as well.
The biennial has invited those artists and experts who are mostly prominent with their specific works of art interpreting the consequences of war and peace cycles and the following political, economical, social and cultural consequences in Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasia and in the Middle-East. The sensitivity, anticipation and subtlety within their works are not only focused on the conditions in their own countries, but also on the effects on other countries and societies as well. This year, the Çanakkale Biennial is forbidden since its critical reflection on the current political situation in Turkey.
Discover more on Manifesta: manifesta.org