Manifesta 11 in Zurich

European biennial Manifesta 11 that started in Zurich, Switzerland last week has moved the concept of art to another level by its curator and artist Christian Jankowski. Jankowski managed to make a deal between 30 different artists and doctors, spa managers, dentists, boatmakers, dog groomers and transgender escorts to collaborate in his exhibition “What People Do for Money: Some Joint Ventures”, which is on view until 18 September. So, the visitors can see some fresh works made by artists and various ordinary people here.

Jankowski said: “People in Zurich take great pride in their jobs, and they stick to the plan.” As his first idea for the title was “Berufungen”, meaning vocations, which would be an apposite name for a city built on a Protestant idea and work ethic, he said: “Zurich, a centre for global financial trade, has a certain emblematic quality. What people do for and with money makes the city tick.”

For this edition of “Manifesta”, Canadian artist Jon Rafman has installed an hypnotic video art pod at Float Center Zurich spa and the tendentious writer from France, Michel Houellebecq created an examination by Henry Perschak, a doctor from the private Klinik Hirslanden. Catalan artist Carles Congost presented his “SImply the Best”, a satiric documentary about the retirement age, including firefighters from Zurich area.

The work that will surely grab some extra attention is the performance made by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who made the wheelchair of a Paralymic racer Edith Wolf-Hunkeler float on Lake Zurich, installed on a platform designed by the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil.

Jankowski notes that the aim of these collaborative projects is to gain new audiences for contemporary art. He gave an short description of the installation about tooth decay called “Crossed Confections” by Norwegian artist Torbjørn Rødland in in Danielle Heller Fontana’s dental surgery. “A conversation started between big-name Zurich gallerists, the artist’s friends and the host’s ‘society’ friends. These are exciting situations where we lose control,” Jankowski said.

For some artists and hosts, this edition of Manifesta seemed mutually beneficial, simply by collaborating with each other. For example, Thai box champion Azem Maksutaj worked with Czech artist Matyas Chochola in a gym in Zurich area. “It is hard to imagine an artist and a fighter getting on, but we were drawn to each other in a strange way, like magnets. Sport is at the edge of performance; the psychological aspects are the same,” Chochola said.

German artist Franz Erhard Walther and the textile developer Thomas Deutschenbaur designed an immersive clothing for Urmat Diusheev, who actually works on the reception at Park Hyatt hotel, to greet the guests wearing this new uniform. The receptionist said: “It’s like a sculpture made into a textile. I now have a topic I can discuss with the guests.”

“Biennial concept is clear and coherent, [but] the process of collaboration was perhaps more interesting than the results. This is why one of the highlights is the series of film screenings on the Pavillon of Reflections, which unfolds the process of collaboration. Mediation is key to the biennial.” – said Katerina Gregos, the curator who was one of the organizers of Manifesta 9, held in 2012.

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