"In case anyone badly needs a greenhouse"
Frankfurter Rundschau | 01.08.2001
++++ General Co-ordinator Martin Fritz talks about the preparations for Manifesta 4
++++ It sounds very statesmanlike when Martin Fritz enters the Manifesta office in Mousonturm, and his function also sounds statesmanlike. "How is a situation in Minsk?" The answer is positive. "We have been invited." The General Co-ordinator of Manifesta 4 stands in front of a map of Europe which is strewn with small, yellow self-adhesive notes. Some of them have a bright pink cross. "We have already been there," says Mr Fritz and smiles. His hands make a sweep over Scandinavia which is to be covered in August. After that it is the turn of the south-east, and journeys will be made to Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey. Some time or other, Georgia will also be paid a visit. Martin Fritz does not have to travel there himself, however. For this purpose there are three curators. Instead, the man from Vienna goes to the swimming pool and for a morning drink.
Of course, this has something to do with his job. The 38 year-old project organizer with the fashionable suit and expressive gestures has to see what is happening in Frankfurt and its environs: at the open-air cinema in Brentanobad, at Annette Gloser's "Incredible series of morning drinks", at the Robert Johnson Club in Offenbach where, at midnight, he was one of the first to arrive.
It could be that one of the up to hundred artists at the European Biennial for Contemporary Art wants to give a brunch. "Or he is badly in need of a greenhouse." In such cases it is advantageous to know the right people and places. And it is encouraging that the Palm Garden has signalled its readiness to co-operate, and the zoo likewise. It could be that someone needed an exotarium as a backdrop for a performance, or the large market hall, the IG Farben House, anything is conceivable. But the necessity of such venues is still pure speculation because the research for the biennial art exhibition has by no means been concluded. The dates, from the end of May to the end of August 2002, are fixed. The curators, Iara Boubnova (Institute of Contemporary Art in Sofia), Nuria Enguita Mayo (Antoni Tàpies Foundation in Barcelona) and Stephanie Moisdon Trembley (curator from Paris) have also been decided on. The four basic exhibition venues in Sachsenhausen (Städel school with its garden), city centre (Kunstverein, Römer, facades of the Schirn Kunsthalle), banks of the Main River (Portikus) and Ostend (Naxos grounds) are fixed. None of the artists have been decided on. There is already an incredible number of blue files full of names, photos and catalogues sorted according to countries and stacked on shelves. The material for Portugal and Spain has just arrived. Parcels are arriving every day. Once the research and journeys have been undertaken, the material has to be examined and sifted through. By December all the invitations for artists to participate should have been sent out. Artists who are largely unknown, mostly young. Martin Fritz himself does not yet know, or at least he is not saying.
"My job is to create options," explains Mr Fritz, who seems dapper and not at all statesmanlike. His last commission was to organize the art project at Expo 2000 in Hanover, and he has a Masters degree in law. His function is roughly to organize travel scholarships, contact publishers, find designers and to network all those involved with each other. Discovering Frankfurt and its various scenes is part of the auxiliary programme. He already knew a bit, enough to know "that in Frankfurt the image of bank skyscrapers and reality do not conform with each other". He also knew sufficiently little in order "to move freely without being obliged by entanglements in local politics". The same thing holds for the art biennial which wanders through Europe free of institutional ties and programs with the aim of setting up and intensifying a network to give artists a platform who come from regions which are otherwise noticed only seldom. Whether it be in Helsinki or Warsaw, in the meantime there are contacts between colleagues everywhere.
After Rotterdam, Luxembourg, Ljubljana, the decision in favour of Frankfurt ("because of its excellent infrastructure" among other things) was received not only positively, Fritz reports, but he regards the banking city as "highly suitable". Many European contradictions are mirrored here, and the art scene is astonishingly active. Some off-scene venues could possibly be integrated into the biennial, and other active forces could use Manifesta for their own purposes and organize parallel events, Martin Fritz hopes. He puts his trust in a "dialectic relationship of tension" and smiles from lively eyes.
Frankfurt is a very professional partner as a venue for events. "Nobody gets on your nerves, nobody puts pressure on you or intervenes." Collaboration with the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, which is responsible for organization, is working excellently, the Austrian affirms. Only the search for sponsors is turning out to be more difficult than expected. Many foundations and companies already had other commitments. The costs of Manifesta 4 are estimated at about EUR 2 million. The City of Frankfurt is providing EUR1.3 million. "We are still lacking one-third," but that only defines the optional room for play of artistic actions, the co-ordinator emphasizes. The core activities are already assured.
von/by Sandra Danicke