October 18, 2018 – January 27, 2019
Cabinet of curiosities – Frank Soehnle’s puppets

engage with the Puppet Theater Collection

German puppet artist and director Frank Soehnle is one of the most important figures in contemporary German puppet theater. His exhibition is not merely a conventional retrospective but an artistic installation that links up with some of the puppets from the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s collection. Since 2005, the Puppet Theater Collection has invited contemporary puppet theater artists to engage with the exhibition medium as part of the International Puppet Theater Festival. In previous years, this series featured an exhibition by Hungarian-Italian object theater artist Gyula Molnàr, in 2009, the Bread & Puppet Theater from the US in 2011, and Stefanie Oberhoff and Pélagie Gbaguidi’s take on the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s African puppets in “Asylum at the Stadtmuseum” in 2013.

Photo from a scene in figuren theater tübingen’s „Nachtkonzert – Le Grand Pas de Deux“ (Night Concert – Le Grand Pas de Deux), Pictured: Frank Soehnle, Photo: Christian Glötzner © Frank Soehnle
Left: „The Devil Pluto" marionette from the production of „Doctor Faustus”; Marionettes: Jakob Bradl (1908), Right: „Centaur" marionette from the production „salto.lamento“; Marionettes: Frank Soehnle (2006) © Münchner Stadtmuseum
Photo from a scene in figuren theater tübingen’s „salto.lamento“(2006), Pictured: Frank Soehnle, Photo: Klaus Kühn © Frank Soehnle
Photo from a scene in figuren theater tübingen’s „salto.lamento“(2006), Pictured: Frank Soehnle, Photo: Michael Kneffel © Frank Soehnle

Frank Soehnle and his “Cabinet of curiosities”

Frank Soehnle’s productions conceive of puppet theater as an interface between all other art forms. The spoken and written word, dance and movement, materials and shapes, music and sounds, images and film all play an equally important role. Depending on content and design, elements from the visual and performing arts are employed in a variety of different ways. The construction and body language of the puppets are central to this exploration of the nature of theater.

The exhibits in the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s Puppet Theater Collection have proved to be an important source of inspiration for the artist. The collection has exercised a strong influence on Soehnle’s work ever since he first visited it as a boy. In the “Cabinet of curiosities”, figures from the Museum’s collection have been juxtaposed, for the very first time, with some of the puppets created by Frank Soehnle during his 30-year career. Eight rooms, each with its own motif (visual arts, variety theater, dance, sideshows, drama, the shadow world, the “danse macabre”, heaven and hell), all serve to draw our attention to differences and similarities, relationships and metamorphoses. Creations by some of the leading puppet makers of the 20th century such as Richard Teschner, Harro Siegel, Fritz Herbert Bross, Harry Kramer and of Paul Brann’s Marionettentheater Münchner Künstler come face to face with the – sometimes astounding – ways in which they have left their mark on Frank Soehnle’s work.

Frank Soehnle was born in Stuttgart in 1963. He studied puppet theater in Stuttgart from 1983 to 1987 and was Director of the “Marotte” puppet theater in Karlsruhe from 1987 to 1990. In 1991, he founded “figuren theater tübingen”, an independent traveling theater company, with Karin Ersching. Since that time, he has toured his solo and ensemble productions worldwide. Highlights include his solo pieces “Nachtgesichter” (1991), “Flamingo Bar” (1996) and “salto.lamento” (2006), visual poems at the interface between the visual and the performing arts. His work as director in various European countries has allowed him to explore the relationship between puppet artist and puppet, providing a visually innovative interpretation of modern and classical texts.

Since 2011, he has appeared as a guest soloist in “Orpheus” at the Komische Oper Berlin. He is a member of the “WUNDERKAMMER” trio, and is also working to develop use of the marionette as an art form.

Soehnle’s original fictional characters are often sexual, human-animal or mythological hermaphrodites created by combining particular materials and objets trouvés. He favors marionettes operated in full view of the audience, but also works with objects that can be transformed into puppets. His work spans the entire range from literary to the personal and political, as illustrated by pieces such as “Kinder der Bestie” (2000), performed with actor Yehuda Almagor, and “liquid skin”, a collaboration with Australian dancer James Cunningham. Since 1989, Soehnle has collaborated with the band, “rat’n’X”. He also teaches at several universities (Stuttgart, Berlin, Charleville-Mézières, Jerusalem, Tours).

Over the years, Soehnle has presented numerous productions at Munich’s International Puppet Theater Festival. At this year’s festival, he will be showcasing two of his latest productions, both of which combine music and puppet theater in unusual ways. NACHTKONZERT (Night Concert) is a magical duet with a double bass player. It forms part of the KON3BASS series – three pieces featuring a combination of double-bass music and puppet theater, all performed on the same day. WUNDERKAMMER – EINE BETRACHTUNG ÜBER DAS STAUNEN (Cabinet of Curiosities – Meditations on Wonderment) is marionette puppetry at its very best, inviting the audience to abandon itself to the beauty of the moment.

This exhibition is funded by

Video to the exhibition