Künstlerhaus Mousonturm
Production site for the still unknown

„The future will be confusing“ on the façade of the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt
„The future will be confusing“ on the façade of the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt | Photo (detail): © Jörg Baumann

For 25 years the theatre makers at the Frankfurt Künstlerhaus Mousonturm have been inventing new forms and formats, connecting with other fields, establishing and re-stitching networks.

“The future will be confusing” stands written in bright, colourful neon letters on the façade of the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt. A plea for the blast of possibility that is the future, which should not be occupied in advance by ideas and forecasts; and a double elusiveness, for we do not know the future even once it has occurred. Knowledge always arises in retrospect, once the event is already past. It is in this gap between perception and understanding, between event and making sense, that the volatile theatre at the Mousonturm has its home.

Tim Etchell’s installation Will Be (2012) finds its continuation in the foyer, where the letters of the sentence crumble across the wall and their meaning completely dissolves. An installation that is meant to be a paradigm for the work of this theatre: subverting certainties, demanding openness, facing the confusion of the future. During its now twenty-five year history, the Mousonturm has itself faced several readjustments, repositioning itself again and again in light of rapidly changing realities.

Art instead of soap

Theatre has been being made in the expressionist office tower of the former Mouson soap factory since the end of 1988; like many other independent venues in Germany, the Künstlerhaus settled in an abandoned industrial building. The idea came from the Künstlerhaus’s founding intendant Dieter Buroch and city councillor in charge of cultural affairs Hilmar Hoffmann, for the developing Frankfurt independent theatre scene needed a place where it could test itself. Soon the Mousonturm was a partner of international production networks and presented very early important contemporaries such as Forced Entertainment, Xavier Le Roy and Jérôme Bel. From 1998 to 2003, Christine Peters was the artistic director, working closely together with Florian Malzacher, Stefan Kaegi and Thomas Frank. Jointly, they developed a programme that was interested in social and theoretical discourses and testing new formats, and that anticipated later developments in similar theatres. And last but not least, here began the collaboration of the directors’ trio Haug/ Kaegi/ Wetzel, which as Rimini Protokoll was to stir up the German theatre world.

Multi-disciplinary program

Today very different artists and formats find space at the Mousonturm: the artist duo Herbordt/ Mohren regularly show here their performative installations, which re-order theatre and world according to the duo’s own criteria; the theatre machinists collective Swoosh Lieu tests the relationship of theatre, technology and political resistance; andcompany&Co turns historical narrative in search of the utopian on its head; and the choreography collective mamaza explores perception thresholds and motor patterns. Together with local institutions, the Mousonturm hosts congresses and symposia; pop concerts regularly take place here; and there are also exhibitions – for instance, of the memory artist Mats Staub. The Tanzlabor_21, founded in 2006, promotes and supports the local dance scene and, as a network with numerous partners, offers professional training, workshops, a biennial summer laboratory and dance in schools projects.

The Mousonturm is in any case integrated into numerous regional, national and international networks. In cooperation with the Hessian Theatre Academy (Hessischen Theaterakademie / HTA), an association of educational institutions in the area of theatre, it promotes the next generation of artists. Together with the Forsythe Company, the Ensemble Modern, the HTA and the University of Music and Performing Arts, it runs the Frankfurt LAB, a place for artistic experiments cutting across genres and disciplines. And since 2012 it has been part of the co-producers network “Freischwimmer”, a festival that shows the productions of young theatre makers.

Between locality and internationality

Niels Ewerbeck, who succeeded Buroch in early 2013, comprehensively modernized the Mousonturm. But only a few weeks after the reopening in September, he took his life. The interim management was taken over by his team, Martina Leitner, Marcus Droß and Martine Dennewald. In August 2013 Matthias Pees, a dramaturge and theatre producer, began as new intendant: in the 1990s he worked as a dramaturge at the Berlin Volksbühne and then produced theatre in São Paulo, Brazil, before joining the Vienna Festival as head dramaturge. At the Mousonturm he has focussed on continuity and quiet changes. He sees curating as an open, collective process: “The complexity of the present can’t be shown through the view of a solitary intendant”. He wants to promote a number of artists and also have them take part in designing the theatre’s programme. In addition, the Euro-centric perspective of the art world will be addressed: Pees would like “to include the view of the other on our own” and has invited, for example, Akira Takayama from Japan and Dieudonné Niangouana from the Republic of the Congo. However confusing the future may be, artists will find ways and means to treat it in art, to spin and to turn it – and also to let it sometimes shine in bright colours.