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Manifesta 11 Takes Shape

2 years ago

In the summer of 2016, the City of Zurich will host the eleventh edition of the Manifesta Biennial. It is the first time in the history of Manifesta that an artist, Christian Jankowski, has been named as curator.

Under the title What People Do For Money: Some Joint Ventures artists will be brought together with a range of representatives from various Zurich-based professions. The result will be about 35 new productions, which will be shown from June 2016 over 100 days at various locations, some of them very unusual, and at the respective workplaces. At the same time, the Löwenbräukunst-Areal (Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, LUMA Westbau / POOL etc. and Kunsthalle Zürich), the Cabaret Voltaire and the Helmhaus will function as central exhibition venues. The core of the exhibition is the “Pavilion of Reflections”, a floating platform on Lake Zurich, which was erected for Manifesta 11 near Bellevue. This is where people can experience close up the crucial moments in the creation of the artworks, as recorded on film.

Manifesta, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art, was founded in 1993 by Hedwig Fijen from the Netherlands and holds its exhibitions at different locations every time. Each edition responds to the diversity of social, political and geographical conditions in today’s Europe. A Europe that finds itself in crisis, more so than
ever before, as demonstrated by the current debates surrounding the economy and migration. Ever since the first edition of Manifesta 20 years ago, the initiators have always placed the emphasis on critical thought, scientific research and artistic experimentation. Its high standards of mediation and comprehensive support programme also ensure a dialogue with young people interested in art. The “Parallel Events” held in conjunction with each edition invited established artistic and cultural platforms from the city and surrounding region to take part in a joint framework programme.

The scene of Manifesta 11 is the City of Zurich, the heart of a dynamic and ever-changing urbanity. The Manifesta in Zurich 2016 complements the festivities marking the centenary of Dada with a contemporary, international and visionary dimension. Manifesta aims to explore how new audience groups can be sensitised and won over for contemporary art and culture in Zurich today. Once a basically agricultural country, Switzerland and with it, Zurich, have developed into an international centre of finance and service. Hardly any other city has been influenced as much by trade and busi- ness activities as Zurich, which is historically characterised by Protestantism. To what extent do professions leave their mark on one’s own identity? What standing does one’s own profession have in today’s society and culture?

Christian Jankowski’s Concept
For the first time in its history, the concept for Manifesta 11 is being drawn up by an artist – as opposed to a curator or team of curators. In this capacity, which is also new to him, Christian Jankowski, who became known for his actions as a video and conceptual artist, brings together artists and representatives of diverse professional groups. The production of art and its presentation are to be integrated in the broad spectrum that is the working world of Zurich. Jankowski’s curatorial concept is based on three principles which are also central to his artistic investigations: collaborations, the inclusion of audience groups from outside the usual circles of art-loving public and the reflection of mass-media formats.

The Artists’ Way of Working
To this day, the majority of invited artists are those who will produce new works for Manifesta 11. They may draw inspiration from local representatives of trades and professions and, using existing materials and methodologies, develop new contributions to the biennial. The artists “help themselves” to various aspects of diverse trades, their processes and protagonists as artistic material. Police officers, meteorologists and dentists will become hosts and help the artist in the creative process.

John Arnold: One Example
For Manifesta 11, the American artist and designer John Arnold is planning a collaboration with his host Fabian Spiquel, 1-star Michelin chef from the Maison Manesse, aimed at reinterpreting dishes that were served at state banquets which were of great importance to Switzerland. These culinary creations will be served at a range of the existing “Imbisse” (take-aways and snack bars) in Zurich, which the artist has renamed “Imbissies”. The origins of this idea are to be found in the English word “Embassy” and the German term “Imbiss”. Through the simple act of sharing a meal, they will build a bridge between diverse social levels: the “Imbissadores” and their regular customers will be brought together with official employees of embassies, leading to new forms of multi-lateral diplomacy.

The Pavilion of Reflections
The centrepiece of the mediatization and reflection of all artistic new productions is the “Pavilion of Reflections”, a floating, multi-functional platform with a giant LED screen, spectator stand, swimming pool and bar, which was conceived by Manifesta 11 and was designed and is being realised by the ETH Zurich under the direction of Professor Tom Emerson and his students. In the daytime, the “Pavilion of Reflections” will function as a public baths and meeting place; in the evening, it will be a place in which to reflect on the presented artworks. Films will be shown which record the processes by which the new works are created but also accompany the resulting exhibitions and vernissages. Film teams from the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK) will document key moments in the production phase. These contributions will be moderated by high-school students from Zurich, who will accompany Manifesta 11 as “art detectives”.

Exhibition venues at Manifesta 11
For Manifesta 11, the presentation of art will be integrated in various locations from Zurich’s working world: places in the city and locations in which the respective hosts carry out their professions will be involved. The actual main exhibition, spread over well-known Zurich institutions – the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, the LUMA Westbau / POOL etc., the Kunsthalle Zürich and the Helmhaus – will be divided up into “theme chambers”. They, too, will be part of the artistic portrayal of the various professions. A pendant to the newly produced artworks will also be on display at the main exhibition venues.

Over the 100-day duration of Manifesta, the biennial will take over the offices and rooms of the Cabaret Voltaire and will radically alter their programmes and architecture. This will take place in co-operation with the assistant professor Dr. Alexander Lehnerer of the ETH. In the centenary year, Christian Jankowski will declare the birthplace of Dada the guild house of the artists. “Cabaret of the Artists – Guild House Voltaire” will thus become Zurich’s 27th and latest guild house. As in all guild houses, entry will require member- ship, which can only be acquired by actively exercising an artistic activity in the form of a “Joint Venture Performance”. Here, too, dialogue and co-operation between artist and professional are also essential outside the usual art business.

Elena Scarpa

  • Pavilion of Reflections Pavilion of Reflections
  • Videostill: John Arnold, with Fabian Spiquel. Copyright Manifesta 11 Videostill: John Arnold, with Fabian Spiquel. Copyright Manifesta 11