Manifesta says it will not boycott Russia over gay rights concerns

State Hermitage Museum, Russia

Manifesta has released a statement saying it will not move next year's edition, due to take place at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, despite concerns over Russia's attitude to gay rights. Earlier this year the Russian parliament adopted a federal law banning the ‘propaganda of non‐traditional sexual relationships’ accessible by minors. The statement by the biennale organiser comes after Irish artist and curator Noel Kelly started a petition, which has received over a 1,700 signature, calling for a move to be considered.

Today's statement reads: 'In response to those who have expressed deep concerns regarding the situation of LGBT people in Russia and any violations of their human rights, we share your concerns. What is clear is that progressive, contemporary culture in Russia is contested and, as ideas continue to be exchanged across borders, we believe it is vital to play an active role in this dialogue. Manifesta was initiated as a discursive, adaptable artistic entity in response to the new social, cultural and political realities that emerged in the aftermath of the Cold War. Manifesta 10 will investigate these 25 years of changing realities and experiences as they have transformed within this new global world order.'

'The Manifesta Foundation was founded on principals of engagement, dialogue, debate and education. The nomadic character of Manifesta aims to establish closer dialogue between cultures within the broader, international fields of contemporary art, theory and politics in a changing society and in possibly contested areas. On principle Manifesta cannot and should not only perform in the ‘safe haven’ of the West or former West. This inevitably involves dialogue with those with whom we may disagree.'

The statement also include a quote from St Petersburg–based LGBT organization Coming Out:

'We at Coming Out are very grateful for any kind of international support to LGBT citizens in Russia as it is important that people do not feel further isolated in the current climate of repressions, homophobic aggression, and intimidation. We understand the call for a boycott of the Olympics. But we truly believe it is important to keep all channels open and enable all possible communications to challenge human rights violations at every opportunity, whether they are cultural or sporting events, business opportunities or political campaigns.'