Artist Spotlight with Moritz Frischkorn Port Fiction (2023, Hamburg / Beirut) – image by © Siska


Artist Spotlight with Moritz Frischkorn

Posted: Sep 28, 2023

This September, ArteEast’s Artist Spotlight series features interviews with artists who collaborated on PORT FICTION, a web-based audiovisual documentary project dealing with the relation of Beirut and Hamburg. Explore the project at PORT FICTION is the work of Myriam Boulos, Moritz Frischkorn, Robin Hinsch, Ibrahim Nehme, Siska, Nour Sokhon and Kolja Warnecke. This fall, the project will be presented as an exhibition and a series of events at Kunsthaus Hamburg and Imagine the City. More info will be published shortly on the project website. 

This week, ArteEast is pleased to present an interview with Moritz Frischkorn as part of this series.

Moritz Frischkorn works as a choreographer, performer and researcher in Hamburg, Germany and abroad. He studied comparative literature, dance and choreography in Berlin, Paris, Salzburg, Hamburg and Stockholm. Since January 2015 he is part of the artistic-theoretic graduate school ‘Performing Citizenship’ (HafenCity University Hamburg/Hamburg University of Applied Arts/FUNDUS Theater/K3 – Centre for Choreography) where he researches and writes about social choreographies of things. He has been collaborating, among others, with Maria F. Scaroni, Vladimir Miller, Manon Santkin, geheimagentur, ‘Imagine the City’ (Ellen Blumenstein), Jonas Woltemate, Martin Nachbar and others. In Januar 2020, his newest work ‘The Great Report’ has been presented at Kampnagel (Hamburg). He teaches regularly, a.o. at a.pass (Brussels), Performance Studies Hamburg and Burg Giebichen-stein. Publications at Palgrave, transcript and FUTUR ZWEI (taz).

ArteEast: Can you tell us about your work in general and the main themes you return to in your practice?

Moritz Frischkorn: During the last 10 years, I have been developing an experimental artistic practice at the intersection of performance, field research, and curation. Within this practice, I think of choreography as an expanded system of governance in which people, things, and information are managed; a potentially violent system of movement control which continually remakes inequalities and exclusions. Choreography, in this regard, is not only about how people move on stage, but also about the flow of people in urban space, migration control, food production, supply chain management, and about how all of these processes and materials are charged with affect and desire. I have been developing this expanded notion of choreography as a citizen of the port city of Hamburg. It is no coincidence that for a long while I have been researching logistics as a form of choreography, given the fact that I would look at port cranes from my living room window. I think of logistics as an unseen mechanism that continually reproduces my own privilege as a Western citizen-subject and I want to understand how this mechanism works. In order to do so, I have, for a couple of years now, initiated research projects that involve artists from different fields and disciplines. These projects take different forms: they may become public as a performance, an exhibition, a text, or – as is the case for Port Fiction – as a website.

AE: Port Fiction is a web-based audiovisual documentary project dealing with the explosion in the Beirut port in 2020, done collaboratively by a group of artists from Lebanon and Germany. Why was it important for you to initiate this project?

MF: I had first been working in Lebanon in 2019 when I collaborated with the sound artist Nour Sokhon for an artistic research project entitled The Great Report. Within The Great Report, I was interested in logistics as a form of choreography that secured my own body’s supply with material, social, and political resources while externalizing costs. Within the research chapter that Nour and I initiated, we were researching land reclamation projects on the coast of Lebanon. I had stumbled upon the fact that chemical waste from Western Europe had been transported to Lebanon during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and some of it, I learned, had been buried in the reconstruction of the Beirut port in 2006 and in land reclamation projects of the same period. While working on these histories, Nour and I learned that land reclamation in Lebanon has for several years after 1990, been a scheme in which all sorts of waste were transformed into very valuable land, an almost alchemical process of turning – metaphorically speaking – shit into gold. This happened at huge costs both for the environment and for people living next to the garbage dumps which were then, more or less simply, pushed into the Mediterranean in order to make new land. 

We premiered The Great Report in January 2020, just a few weeks before Covid hit the scene, and just a few months after the Lebanese public had started to accuse its political elite publicly. The Great Report, already, had been an attempt to weave personal, narrative, and artistic links between Hamburg and Beirut (among other places). When Beirut was hit by the unimaginable catastrophe of August 4, 2020, I was shocked and sad. But really, I felt that my own civic and artistic position was challenged again in the moment in which a small consulting agency (Hamburg Port Agency) from Hamburg publicly proposed a plan for how to rebuild the port of Beirut in spring 2021–a plan that was received with a lot of criticism from the Lebanese civil society and for good reason. The HPA reconstruction plan fundamentally lacked any engagement with the Lebanese people. It was the wet dream of Western global infrastructure planning involving faceless international capital. More than before, I wanted to investigate the thin thread that connected both places – Beirut and Hamburg – and ask: What connected those two places, despite the innumerable differences? Was there something to their connection beyond investment policies and supply chain mechanisms?       

AE: How did you meet the artists who are part of this collaboration and what led you to invite them in particular to take part in this project? 

MF: Via Nour Sokhon, I was introduced to Ibrahim Nehme and Myriam Boulos, whose work I had been following for a while already and which I adored. I got to know Siska via a curator friend who had seen his work in Berlin. Robin Hinsch is a long-term collaborator from Berlin, Kolja Warnecke is a web-designer based in Hamburg who has worked with many people from the field of experimental photography. Katharina Joy Book and Kaya Behkalam, who supported the project dramaturgically, came to the project via personal relation of the team. I feel that the group of people that worked on Port Fiction is more of an assemblage that grew organically than the result of a number of professional curatorial choices. I am happy about this process of growth and am grateful to have had the chance to collaborate with this group of great artists. 

AE: As part of Port Fiction’s development, the Lebanese participating artists traveled to Hamburg, and took part in collective walks and workshops so as to experience for themselves aspects that connected and differentiated the two cities. As one of the locals from Hamburg, what was the experience of hosting visiting artists like for you? How do you think this experience enhanced the collective project?

MF: We met both in Hamburg and Berlin for field research and collective workshops. Initially, I was afraid that my starting hypothesis – i.e., that there was a relation between Hamburg and Beirut worth investigating – would not prove true for the Lebanese participating artists when they’d experience Hamburg. But we discovered that overlaying the two cities, in all their fundamental differences, proved an interesting starting point for asking poignant questions. For a while, we were imaginatively traveling to and through Beirut while walking along the harbor line of Hamburg, as if you would take the map and feel the experience of one place to navigate through the other city. For the moment, we have given up the idea of literally walking through one of the cities in favor of a more narrative and associative approach of linking both places. But I hope that one day, we’ll further develop our ideas for performative walks in both places. 

AE: What or who are some of your major creative influences, and why?

MF: I have very different creative influences. For example, I love the work of dance artists Meg Stuart and Philip Gehmacher for their research into the affective quality of gesture. All the while, within recent years, I’m often drawn to artistic practices that situate themselves at the fine edge between documentation, fiction, and poetry. There are many people working within that blurry field of research, from W.G. Sebald to Walid Raad. I like works that point to real things in order to uncover unseen, utopian, and imaginative layers of reality that are lurking beneath the apparently untroubled surface of everyday appearances. 

AE: What else are you currently working on and do you have any new projects or publications upcoming in 2023-2024?

MF: I have just published my first monograph entitled More-Than-Human Choreography. Handling Things between Logistics and Entanglement. At the moment, I also work as a dramaturg at Schauspielhaus Zürich where I’ll help Christopher Rüping stage The Seagull by Chekhov in December 2023. Other than that, I am collecting ideas and evidence for a volume of essays on the Infrastructures of Feeling. This is the book that I would like to write next, but at the moment, there is not so much more than a title… 



Instagram: @moritzfrischkorn