The productive Energy of Diversity
The Muffatwerk in Munich

The Muffatwerk, founded in Munich in 1993, offers a wide-ranging cross-genre programme, and it is an international cultural hub.

Just follow the buzz on a dark night. That is how directions to the nocturnal Muffatwerk might read. The water in the Auer Mühlbach stream, which served to cool the former steam power plant, rushes up against a barrier here. From a distance, the art nouveau industrial building, which lies in the shadow of tall trees, has something spellbinding, fairy-tale-like about it. Anyone finding their way here for the first time feels as if they were making a discovery. Yet the Muffatwerk is anything but an insiders’ tip – it is a place where Munich is metropolitan.

The pulse of the place is fast. Artists from more than 120 countries of the world come and go here at some 500 to 600 events each year. There are choreographers such as Jan Fabre, Meg Stuart and Vim Vandekeybus, theatre people from Christoph Schlingensief to Tim Etchells of Forced Entertainment, jazz and pop greats from Herbie Hancock to 2raumwohnung, and writers such as Salman Rushdie and Peter Esterhazy. There are international festivals of multi-media, dance, literature and new music in turn. ab.

Dietmar Lupfer and Christian Waggershauser, founders and managers of the culture power station, which has been a limited liability company for 17 years, have dared to make their mark by other means than through clear political or aesthetic premises. Their aim is to “establish an urban feeling for life and to put on a programme that reflects social reflection and a basic humanist attitude,” as Lupfer carefully puts it. The venue has long been an internationally popular meeting place of the in-scenes in fields ranging from youth culture to the avant-garde. And the concept, which takes the form of a public-private partnership, is also a financial success. In bearing a large share of the operating costs, the city of Munich meets between 20 and 30 per cent of the overall budget of up to two and a half million euro per year. The rest has to be earned. The takings from performances by popular artists enable the Muffatwerk to show experimental productions too. In return, the city has the right to use the venue on a hundred days each year, benefiting local artists as well as festivals. That works to the satisfaction of both parties.

Earned luxury: Richard Siegal is the third Artist in Residence

Choreographer and dancer Richard Siegal is the third Artist in Residence in the Muffatwerk’s programme. The Muffatwerk cannot always afford to award a residence. Rui Horta was the first Artist in Residence after his company fell victim to Frankfurt’s budget cut fiasco. He has meanwhile created an important interdisciplinary dance centre in his native Portugal, o espaço do tempo (space of time). For Richard Siegal and his production organisation, The Bakery, the Muffatwerk has already been an important cooperation partner in developing multimedia pieces in connection with a motion-capture programme. Siegal discussed the results of this intensive work with an interested, varied audience in April 2010.

„“The unusual combination of an ability to engage in discourse and a high standard of dance,” is what artistic director Dietmar Lupfer values about Siegal. His work with bodies and technique, action and manipulation fit into the concept well, as the organisers are explicitly interested in establishing a media conscience. They are working intensively to keep up with progressive developments in the fields of new media and social installations. The interdisciplinary symposium NEURO – Networking Europe has visited the Muffatwerk and the installation artist Chico Macmurtrie was Siegal’s predecessor as Artist in Residence. Ulf Langheinrich’s Hemisphere, too, a media biotope, made a stop-over here on its way from Rome to the Martin Gropius Building in Berlin.

Cultural funding has its limits, but makes sense

Business partners Waggershauser and Lupfer do not see themselves as part of the cultural industry, something they regard as a contradiction in terms. The public purse should continue to be the main source of funding for cultural projects. The Muffatwerk too, applies for various funds for specific events and cooperates with foundations and cultural institutions, as well as staging coproductions with groups such as the PACT Zollverein and the Mousonturm. The city of Munich also provided funding in two instalments for the renovation of the protected industrial building. The Muffatwerk meanwhile operates on an area of more than 3000 m², which includes the large Muffathalle, a former turbine hall equipped with complex and flexible stage technology, as well as two state-of-the-art studios, and the Ampere Club with its stunning design, a more intimate event room for up to 400 visitors which opened in 2005. There is also a café for cool days and a beer garden next to the Isar for sunny days. Richard Siegal also enthuses about the possibilities of the venue. Recently-approved three-year funding from the Culture Department could make his wish for a new network in Munich come true. And perhaps the Munich scene’s dream that the city could become an internationally relevant location for contemporary dance could also finally come true.

Astrid Kaminski
works as a freelance writer and journalist. She writes about literature, dance and performance for daily newspapers and specialist journals.

Translation: Eileen Flügel
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion





Muffatwerk is accessible barrier-free to disabled persons. Kultur barrierefrei München