„In the right place“: the signs of Klaus-Mann-square in Frankfurt

Klaus-Mann-Platz_im-ICE

On Octo­ber 6th I’m in Frank­furt again for a loc­al appoint­ment: to receive the street signs from Klaus-Mann-Platz, which will be part of the monu­ment to the Mann fam­ily in Munich.

The square has changed since my last vis­it in Feb­ru­ary 2019: The most strik­ing fea­tures are the two black umbrel­las and the benches, which indic­ate the exten­sion of the res­taur­ant to the out­side area. Clearly, pub­lic space, a square is now, in Corona times, more in demand than ever. The black umbrel­las with the inscrip­tion „Black“ are a bizarre match for Rose­marie Trockel’s black angel and its wing­tips.

A graf­fiti is now emblazoned on the wall next to the street lamp with the sign, the green bin on it has been replaced by a new blue one. And the sign „Klaus-Mann-Platz“ and the hold­er also look new, prob­ably a res­ult of my enquiry …

What I did­n’t expect: The hand­ing over of the sign with a press date res­ults in an early open­ing, a pre­view of the monu­ment. Many of those involved in the pro­ject gath­er on the square: Jes­sica Bee­bone from the Depart­ment of Visu­al Arts of the City of Frank­furt, respons­ible for Pub­lic Art, Juli­us Reins­berg rep­res­ent­ing Ina Hartwig, Dir­ect­or of the Depart­ment of Cul­ture. His speech is a good sum­mary of Klaus Mann’s rela­tion­ship to the square and monu­ment for the per­se­cuted homo­sexu­als, called „Frank­furt Angel“. He also men­tions Thomas and Golo Mann and their con­nec­tion to Frank­furt. You can read it here.

As the monu­ment pro­ject cre­ates an inter­face between art and traffic, rep­res­ent­at­ives of both depart­ments are present: City Coun­cilor Klaus Oes­ter­ling, who heads the Depart­ment of Trans­port, Michaela Kraft from the Depart­ment of Road Con­struc­tion and Devel­op­ment, Chris­ti­an Wachter from their Com­mu­nic­a­tions Depart­ment, Rüdi­ger Auth, who had a new street sign made to replace the one to be handed over. He also brought along an employe with a lad­der, to unscrew the sign. Such a sign is well suited to rep­res­ent mul­tiple par­ti­cip­a­tion, you can touch it from sev­er­al sides.

Juli­us Reins­berg, Albert Coers, Klaus Oes­ter­ling; Photo: Chris­ti­an Wachter

I am delighted to get my hands on an object again, some­thing tan­gible, to be able to do some­thing with it. I say the same to a journ­al­ist – although her ques­tion „what should hap­pen to the sign?“ is more aimed at the long-term per­form­ance of the sign, at how/where it should one day find its place in the monu­ment in Munich.

I take the sign and the rather heavy frame under my arm and start walk­ing. The press kit with the let­ter­head of the city of Frank­furt proves to be help­ful, as I am actu­ally stopped by the police on my way to the under­ground sta­tion Kon­stabler­wache and asked about the sign – where did it come from, and wheth­er there is still one hanging in the square? Walk­ing with the sign under my arm has a per­form­at­ive char­ac­ter.

In the ICE. The sign rests in the seat, in the cush­ion, and it fits well that it says „Platz“ instead of „Klaus-Mann-Street“. Because „Platz“ does not only denote a cer­tain, delim­ited area in the open air, in pub­lic space, but also the per­son­al place where someone is sit­ting, like here on the train – in Eng­lish it would take a whole series of words, „square“, „space“, „room“, „place“, „seat“, „desk“ … to cov­er the field of mean­ing. And as Klaus Mann rides along beside me and I review the trans­ac­tion today, I have the feel­ing that the han­dover in Frank­furt was like „the right Man(n) in the right place“.