Last Saturday Mitte saw the opening of the year: finally, after several delays, the Christoph Schlingensief exhibition, curated by Klaus Biesenbach, Anna-Catharina Gebbers and Susanne Pfeffer with the artistic advisory of Schlingensief’s widow, Aino Laberenz, was opened at Kunst-Werke. What was initially planned by Pfeffer and Schlingensief himself, is now, three years after his death, finally visible in the in Auguststraße – although the curators repeatedly insist that it’s not a retrospective, not a concluding show, but the starting point for various inspections of Schlingensief, it’s certainly the broadest survey of his creative work to date. Which also means you should take your time to get at least a glimpse of the massive amount of material on display. Some say you’ll need five days to view it all.
Dozens of displays, screenings and screens are spread on the three floors of KW-Berlin, documenting and presenting his installations, films, performances, theater plays and much more. Among them the infamous U3000 show, an eight episode talk-show featured on MTV in 2000, which satirized contemporary TV formats in a way so brutal, yet so enticing.
As with all of Schlingensief’s works, there’s no definable line separating art and non-art, one can never be sure which parts are staged and which aren’t. The ultimate merging of art and live as a goal is present in all of his creations – there’s no art pour l’art, every message is meant to be taken seriously, and Schlingensief had a distinctive missionary desire.
His serious play with the worlds of art and politics, staging and fact, is what makes his works so alluring, there’s no way to stay distanced, Schlingensief will draw you in and literally force you to take a position. Of course, a post-mortem exhibition of an artist who mainly worked with the means of performance can only make the attempt to recreate the powerful demands his works radiate, yet it succeeds in many ways and makes his allure experiencable. The films are impressive enough and then there’s the huge installation in the souterain hall including seven pole sitters.
They surround and kind of guard his Animatograph, a revolving stage first presented in Iceland in 2005, that comprises his art in an unique way – in a constant transformation the installation looks like a giant tent from one side, once inside, the labyrinth of films and wooden structures isn’t easy to decipher, maybe it’s impossible. As in all of his works, there’s no way to completely cut through his work, to fully understand it. But there’s no need to, either.
I highly recommend you to visit this remarkable staging. And you should definitely not miss the interesting side program including talks with Max Dax and Diedrich Diederichsen hosted by Anna-Catharina Gebbers, as well as screenings of many of his films in the Club 69.
Christoph Schlingensief - on view at KW-Berlin, Auguststraße 69 in Mitte until 19.01.2014, Wed–Mon 12:00–19:00, Thu 12:00–21:00, Tuesdays closed. Admission 6 Euros, reduced 4 Euros.