The question is actually superfluous, and yet you can’t get it out of your head. How would Christoph Schlingensief have interfered in documenta fifteen, its anti-Semitism, and the subsequent reappraisal? Of course he couldn’t have done it: Christoph Schlingensief died of cancer in 2010, aged just 49.
At the 1997 Documenta in Kassel, the action artist, who was also a theatre, opera and film director, made a big impression. His poster call “Kill Helmut Kohl” provoked a scandal including police action. A year later, he asked all unemployed people in Germany to go swimming with him in Lake Wolfgang to make the water at Kohl’s Austrian holiday home overflow. Around 100 supporters of his party “Chance 2000” came to the happening. The lake was still.
But that couldn’t stop Schlingensief, any more than an initial rejection at the Munich film school. A second attempt also failed – Schlingensief was not awarded an academic degree, but fame turned into recognition, even fame.
In the ARD Bettina Böhler builds a cinematic monument with “Schlingensief – Into the Silence Shouting”. The wealth of material must be enormous, the pharmacist’s son from Oberhausen was as productive as he was innovative, the objects and projects spewed out of him like a volcano. The portrait film tries and manages to do justice to this diversity.
“I’m directing,” said Schlingensief, who was still quite young, after he had shot his first, already very experimental, scenes. “I asked my father if I could have the camera. That’s how I made the first resistance film in ’68, when the others were demonstrating,” he later recalled. Also in Böhler’s film, the editor worked with Schlingensief, Schlingensief doesn’t seem to want to give up directing. His assessments of his life are based on the material of numerous interviews. “I have always produced the films out of a positive dilettantism.” The perspective is the main feature: “What happens when things are superimposed that have nothing to do with each other?”
His works are always explorations, aesthetic drafts, it is often about overwriting realisms, deep drilling, driven by his own fears and obsessions, but also by the fears and obsessions of older generations. Schlingensief finds the formula for this: “To remember is to forget!”
Many of his works are not addressed to the art and gallery world, but to the public: in Vienna, Schlingensief placed 2000 containers in front of the State Opera, where the public was allowed to choose a foreigner to be deported every day. In 2002, based on a TV quiz, he had tasks set at the Volksbühne in Berlin: “Order the following concentration camps from north to south”. Frank Castorf’s house gave him his breakthrough as a theater director in the 1990s with productions such as “100 Years of the CDU” or “Rocky Dutschke, 68”. His subversive “Parsifal” in Bayreuth is celebrated. He began building an opera village near Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. For him “a project where art and life go together”.
In Venice in 2003, Schlingensief placed traumatized pole sitters on apparently safe tree trunks. Already seriously ill, he was to design the German Pavilion eight years later. He died before that. The Golden Lion for this became a posthumous honor. His cancer became a poignant diary: “It can’t be as beautiful as here in heaven!”