“Fassbinder said ‘I don’t throw bombs. I make films’, and I would have loved to tell him, ‘I make films, too’.”
Photo: Christoph Schlingensief at the shooting of "Terror 2000"
With his works, Christoph Schlingensief has shaped the cultural and political discourse in Germany for more than two decades. He always insisted that he was first and foremost a filmmaker. His GERMAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE presents our first VHS release; since then we released all of his films – from feature films to his early 8- and 16mm short films and also produced some of his later films such as THE AFRICAN TWIN TOWERS.
Growing up in the shadow of the New German Cinema, Schlingensief was deeply influenced by the likes of Rainer Werner Fassbinder – many of Fassbinder’s actors such as Udo Kier, Margit Carstensen, Irm Hermann or Volker Spengler later became regulars in Schlingensief’s films. THE 120 DAYS OF BOTTROP (special guest appearance by Helmut Berger!) is Schlingensief’s hommage to this peroid of cinema as well as its final coup de grace. In much the same way he dealt with German avant-garde cinema 15 years earlier with his first feature film TUNGUSKA – The Crates are Delivered starring Alfred Edel. Other influences are Luis Buñuel, Werner Schroeter or Herbert Achternbusch.
It was with his “Germany Trilogy”, consisting of 100 YEARS ADOLF HITLER, THE GERMAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE and TERROR 2000 that Schlingensief came to prominence. Since then he established himself as one of the country’s most important and versatile artists. On August 21st 2010, during his preparations on the German Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2011, Christoph passed away far too early. We miss him dearly – and will continue to take care of his filmic oeuvre.
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 – THE CRATES ARE HERE (1985), EGOMANIA – ISLAND WITHOUT HOPE (1987) or MOTHER’S MASK (1988), he became known to a wider audience via his “Germany Trilogy” of films: 100 YEARS ADOLF HITLER (1989), THE GERMAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1990) and TERROR 2000 (1992); UNITED TRASH (1995) and THE 120 DAYS OF BOTTROP (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, ROCKY DUTSCHKE ’68 (1996), SCHLACHT UM EUROPA (1997), ROSEBUD (2001), ATTA ATTA – ART HAS BROKEN LOOSE (2003), ART AND VEGETABLES, 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), U 3000 (2000) and FREAKSTARS 3000 (2002). Schlingensief was a co-founder of the CHANCE 2000 party, which contested the 1998 German elections. The project is documented in the documentation CHANCE 2000 – FAREWELL TO GERMANY He courted controversy with his 2000 portacabin project BITTE LIEBT ÖSTERREICH in Vienna. Paul Poet documents the projekt in his film FOREIGNERS OUT! 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 THE FLYING DUTCHMAN 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 A CHURCH OF FEAR VS. THE ALIEN WITHIN (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).
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.
Christoph Schlingensief passed away in Berlin on August 21, 2010.