The exhibition Most Favourite Nation brings together a selection of Cibic’s recent works as well as new commissions; creating a unified inquiry examining tools of soft power through the histories of the female body, which was often instrumentalised by ensuing national myths and ideologies to colonise international audiences and citizens alike. These tools of soft power form a metaphor for the reinvented dance of culture with new political powers of today.

The works within the show unite in their aim of dissecting the rituals of patriarchy in nation-building during some of most perturbing moments of European identity and political crises. Throughout her career, Cibic has been applying a feminist unpicking of the fractures of historical ready-mades: using primary documents and other archives to highlight the potential reimagined scenography of power relations. The exhibition at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg intends to question how the contemporary art world is managing the systematic collapse of culture and how swiftly political curation can start to affect national culture as well as singular cultural actors.

The title, Most Favourite Nation, is borrowed from the most favoured nation (MFN) principle that is the cornerstone of multilateral agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which guarantees equal trade conditions for all participating contracting parties. The WTO deals with the regulation of the MFN principle between nations, ensuring that trade is as smooth, predictable, and free as possible. Cibic used this principle from trade law as a conceptual model for her new work, analyzing the conditions for those active in the cultural sector in the European Union. It is also a clause that guarantees the rights of individual artists within entertainment contracts; it is a form of protection accorded to a single counterpart, to assure them that no similarly-situated counter party is getting a better deal than they are. Affectively, an MFN contract is common on projects that employ a number of similarly situated actors, such as films or plays with ensemble casts on which several cast members have approximately equal prominence. Departing from the context of global trade organisation, Cibic uses the concept of this principle as a lens through which to observe the trading systems of cultural agents infused with national and political authority, alongside historical case studies where culture has been reduced to a pawn within ideological rewritings of international conflicts.

By observing specific historical ready-mades, the artist speaks directly to the contemporary crisis of culture under the new global turn to right-wing populism and ideological crises – both of which are enshrining a new upheaval of patriarchy, using culture once again for its revisionism and propaganda. This leads to question: Is a metaphorical dance between culture and state power possible and if so, how entangled are we, as cultural producers, within it? And who amongst us will get the opportunity to continue working within the decimated cultural sector – decimated in a similar way it was in the most perturbing ideological crises of European history. We are again faced with a renewed ideologically heightened space where culture is heavily instrumentalised in its attempts to reinvent the narrative chosen by the ensuing political authority. Spreading across Europe, this populist dismissal of art and culture is threatening the very European core.