When Berlin-based artist Christian Jankowski - who, along with co-curator Francesca Gavin - was tasked with curating Manifesta 11, the travelling European biennial that takes place in Zurich through 18 September, he selected the title 'What People Do for Money' and a theme called 'Some Joint Ventures', pairing local citizens — 'hosts' — in various professions of the Swiss financial capital with participating artists.
'Specific professions that are chosen by different artists add to mapping and reaching into the city, almost like arms from an octopus,' said Jankowski. 'Each arm of the octopus is another host-artist relation that goes into another society of Zurich that goes into another professional background that goes into another geographical area.'
The work was spread across four main venues in the city — Löwenbraukunst; Helmhaus; Cabaret Voltaire, which was also the birthplace of dada a century ago; and the 'Pavillon of Reflections', a gathering place where visitors could watch behind-the-scenes videos located on Lake Zurich.
Additionally, 30 satellite projects could be viewed in various locations of Zurich. In total, 130 artists have participated in the biennial. American artist Mike Bouchet procured a day’s worth of waste from Zurich’s denizens, working with sewage treatment specialists to form a sculpture consisting of 80,000 kg of faeces in Löwenbraukunst. German-born, Mexico City-based artist Marco Schmitt recalled Luis Buñuel’s 1962 surrealist film The Exterminating Angel (El Angel Exterminador) to create a surrealist movie with the city’s police officers, while Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan launched Paralympic athlete Edith Wolf-Hunkeler on a floating wheelchair into Lake Zurich — the performance piece had a few hiccups; one of the workers fell into the water.
Jankowski asserts that pairing artists with Zurich hosts would bring art into new places. 'It’s always when art touches something else, it has the tendency to infect it with art,' he said.