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Christoph Maria Schlingensief was born in the western German city of Oberhausen on October 24, 1960. His artistic roots were in the medium of film. After the films TUNGUSKA – DIE KISTEN SIND DA (1985), EGOMANIA – INSEL OHNE HOFFNUNG (1987) or MUTTERS MASKE (1988), he became known to a wider audience via his “Germany Trilogy” of films: 100 JAHRE ADOLF HITLER. DIE LETZTE STUNDE IM FÜHRERBUNKER (1989), DAS DEUTSCHE KETTENSÄGENMASSAKER (1990) and TERROR 2000 – INTENSIVSTATION DEUTSCHLAND (1992); UNITED TRASH (1995) and DIE 120 TAGE VON BOTTROP – DER LETZTE NEUE DEUTSCHE FILM (1996) – Schlingensief‘s last full-length film, followed. At this point, working with physically and mentally disabled individuals was already a regular and characteristic part of his productions.
From 1993 onwards Schlingensief featured increasingly at major theatres in the German-speaking world, with e.g. 100 JAHRE CDU. SPIEL OHNE GRENZEN, ROCKY DUTSCHKE ’68 (1996), SCHLACHT UM EUROPA (1997), ROSEBUD (2001), ATTA ATTA (2003), KUNST UND GEMÜSE, A. HIPLER (2004) at the Volksbühne Berlin, BAMBILAND (2003) at the Burgtheater in Vienna, HAMLET (2001) and ATTABAMBI, PORNOLAND (2004) at the Schauspielhaus Zürich. Schlingensief also made a number of contributions to TV, such as TALK 2000 (1997), U3000 (2000) and FREAKSTARS 3000 (2002). Schlingensief was a co-founder of the CHANCE 2000 party, which contested the 1998 German elections. He courted controversy with his 2000 portacabin project BITTE LIEBT ÖSTERREICH (subtitled »Foreigners out!«) in Vienna and also AKTION 18 (Theater der Welt, 2002). With the CHURCH OF FEAR he organised a polesitting contest at the 2003 Venice Biennale. In 2007 he presented the installation 18 BILDER PRO SEKUNDE at Munich’s Haus der Kunst. At the 2004 Bayreuth Festival Schlingensief staged PARSIFAL – his first opera production. It was followed in 2007 by DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER at the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil. In 2005 Schlingensief developed the ANIMATOGRAPH, “a walk-through photo plate”, which was staged at the Reykjavik Art Festival, Neuhardenberg, Lüderitz (Namibia) and Vienna’s Burgtheater.
Productions of DER ZWISCHENSTAND DER DINGE (Maxim Gorki Theater, 2008), the Fluxus Oratory EINE KIRCHE DER ANGST VOR DEM FREMDEN IN MIR (Ruhrtriennale, 2008) and the ready-made opera MEA CULPA (Burgtheater, 2009) saw Schlingensief incorporate the subject of his cancer illness (which he had been diagnosed with in early 2008). His 2009 book SO SCHÖN WIE HIER KANNS IM HIMMEL GAR NICHT SEIN! (subtitled »Diary of a Cancer Victim«) spent several weeks in the bestseller charts. Edited by his wife Aino Laberenz, published 2012 his autobiographical memories ICH WEISS, ICH WAR’S.
In 2008 Schlingensief began working on the OPERA VILLAGE FOR AFRICA idea, which he saw as a platform for intercultural dialogue and experimentation. On February 8, 2010 the foundation stone was laid in Burkina Faso. The connected school was opened on October 8, 2011. His final production, VIA INTOLLERANZA II (2010), featured performers from Burkina Faso and Germany and received an invitation to the 2011 Berliner Theatertreffen.
Schlingensief was no longer able to himself realize the plans he had already drawn up for the German Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Under the artistic direction of his wife Aino Laberenz, an alternative project involving an exhibition of his latest works was realised. The pavilion was awarded the Golden Lion at the 54th Venice Biennale.
Schlingensief was professor of fine arts at the Braunschweig University of Art. Christoph Schlingensief passed away in Berlin on August 21, 2010.
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