Shapes of the Unspeakable

Christoph Schlingensief: Fear at the Core of Things
Curated by Kathrin Rhomberg
BAK – Basis voor Actuele Kunst
5 February – 29 April 2012

Christoph Schlingensief, “Ausländer raus—Bitte liebt Österreich”, 2000.
Photo collage: Paul Poet

A few weeks prior to the unveiling of the exhibition, Christoph Schlingensief: Fear at the Core of Things at Basis voor Actuele Kunst (BAK) in Utrecht, the right-wing Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) announced a complaint service to collect reports on Central & Eastern European migrant workers found to be ‘stealing’ jobs, causing housing problems and ‘polluting’ Dutch soil. Further, the party (steered by populist leader, Geert Wilders) proposes to submit these reports from aggrieved Dutch citizens to the Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment . In 1998, the prolific filmmaker, theatre director, author and artist, Christoph Schlingensief (1960–2010) announced the collective action, Baden im Wolfgangsee ; inviting all of Germany’s unemployed to bathe in an Austrian Lake close to a holiday resort visited by then German chancellor, Helmut Kohl. Schlingensief estimated that the combined body weight of the 6 million unemployed would flood Kohl’s resort. This action was part of the artist’s ongoing project, CHANCE 2000, a political party that called for self-organization and radical engagement. The Art of Politics and the political potential of Art are scarcely examined as a conflated paradigm, yet in Schlingensief one finds there is an aesthetico-political wholeness to every act. Through a hyphenated state of Life-Art, Lebenskunstwerk, he constructed affective devices to consider ‘the unspeakable’: revulsion, bigotry, perversities.

The ground floor of BAK is transformed into Animatograph – Iceland-edition. (House of Parliament/House of Obsession) Destroy Thingvellir (2005). Fish skeletons hang at a corner, while one of several screens portrays a duel between an ostrich and a figure with the Cross. A scrawled note on the floor remarks: “It’s very Political.” One must then crawl into a gigantic ‘machine’ that breeds multiple fables and mutant beings. Norse mythology, Infrared lamps and fantastical maps create an uncanny trail that eventually leads to a Thai cafeteria and invitations to join the Icelandic Army. Schlingensief states: “Anima is the soul…An animatograph illustrates what goes on in the soul; it is a soul illustrator.” A rotating stage at the core of this total environment functions as an infiltrated skin for sound, film and audiences to project and be projected. The Animatograph is among few Schlingensief works meant for the white cube. Its reconstruction is in itself a mammoth exercise.

Continue Reading: C Magazine 114, Men – Summer 2012

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