20 Year Anniversary

Frankfurter Positionen

Autumn 2001. The excitement among the initiators was palpable. The artists Dirk Paschke and Daniel Milohnić wanted to upend a battered security van on Goethestrasse, a noble shopping street in Frankfurt.

At first sight, this artistic action directed against capital and consumerism did not seem to suit a posh private bank, even if that bank had just founded the BHF BANK Stiftung, which is specifically intended to promote the contemporary arts, among other good causes. At the start of the new millennium, the boards of the foundation had agreed to provide space and time to artists so that they might adopt positions on social changes through their work. The founder, today the ODDO BHF AG, deliberately aspired to initiate critical discourse through the Frankfurter Positionen, the objective being to track down new paths and perspectives in the conflicts and issues raised by the rapid developments in politics and technology. As a prelude, the upended van on the fancy shopping street in Frankfurt was indeed a striking position.

At the premiere of the first Frankfurter Positionen on 30.9.2001 in the Bockenheimer Depot, the dramatists who had been commissioned read from their new plays: for example, Gesine Danckwart from Meinnicht, and Roland Schimmelpfennig from Vorher/Nachher. In the public domain, passers-by found themselves confronted with installations, sculptures or performances at the Hauptwache in the absolute center of the city or in the Ostpark. The respective fine artists had repurposed the streets and parks as exhibition spaces. A totally new format was born: an interdisciplinary festival featuring theatre, the fine arts and music. To this day, a further speciality consists of the fact that the festival’s implementation relies on cooperation between established cultural institutions and juries of experts. For all those involved, a surprising outcome was that such collaboration across art disciplines tapped new creative potential and attracted a new audience. At the time, the Hessische Rundfunk (Hessen broadcasting corporation) wrote with great foresight that this interdisciplinary approach would give rise to a new and eminently desirable willingness for cooperation in Frankfurt’s cultural sector.

And that is precisely what happened. The success of the first Frankfurter Positionen encouraged the BHF BANK Stiftung to enable this Festival of New Works to continue as a biennial. As a result, a wide network of cultural partners has been woven over the years. Other formats have emerged from this, for example, The Long Night of Social Research at the MMK, or work commissioned by the partners themselves in dance and performance art. The collaboration between the partner institutions is no longer just limited to the festival. They regularly cooperate on productions and exhibitions; some jointly run the Frankfurt LAB, a production and performance venue; and almost all of them are pursuing the future-oriented plan to build up the Culture Campus Frankfurt as a centre of contemporary arts, training and scholarship. The excitement which that security van unleashed in 2001 was actually the beginning of a new and productive development in culture in Frankfurt.

20 years later, the BHF BANK Stiftung and its partners have every reason to celebrate its jubilee with the artists, speakers and audiences of Frankfurter Positionen. On 01.02.2020 the 10th Frankfurter Positionen will open in the Bockenheimer Depot again. The programme includes the premiere of a new work by the Nature Theater of Oklahoma from New York. Entirely in keeping with the spirit of the festival, both Schauspiel Frankfurt and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm have got together – as co-producers.


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