The German Pavilion
54rd International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2011

4 June – 27 November 2011



Curator of the German Pavilion:
Susanne Gaensheimer, Director of MMK Museum für Moderne  Kunst, Frankfurt am Main

Artist at the German Pavilion:
Christoph Schlingensief

Project Management for the German Pavilion:
Christine Kaiser

Editorial of the Publication:
Eva Huttenlauch

Head of communication:
Markus Müller, Bureau Mueller, Berlin

Double Standards, Berlin

Commissioned by:
Federal Foreign Office in collaboration with the Institute of Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa)

Goethe-Institut, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Christoph Schlingensief estate, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Private sponsors, Friends of the Museum Folkwang Essen, AXA Art Insurance, Bionade

Ruhrtriennale, Hauser & Wirth, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

Media partner:
Deutsche Welle DW-TV

German Pavilion

La Biennale di Venezia

After Christoph Schlingensief`s death in late Summer of 2010, the curator Susanne Gaensheimer and Aino Laberenz, Christoph Schlingensief‘s wife and longtime collaborator, decided not to exhibit his latest project, which existed in developmental, sketch-like form, but rather, to show existing works in the Pavilion. In a constructive collaboration with a circle of close participants and confidants of Christoph Schlingensief including Carl Hegemann, Thomas Goerge, Voxi Bärenklau, Heta Multanen, and Frieder Schlaich, and drawing on extensive conversations with Chris Dercon, Alexander Kluge, Matthias Lilienthal, and Francis Kéré; Gaensheimer and Laberenz have developed a concept for the German Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. The selected works will provide a representative insight into his complex oeuvre and in particular cover the areas of theater, film, video, and Africa.

In the main hall of the German Pavilion, the stage of the Fluxus oratorio A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within has been installed, which Schlingensief conceived for the 2008 Ruhrtriennale. A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within is perhaps Christoph Schlingensief‘s most personal work, where he portrays his illness openly and unsparingly, using his own painful experience to examine the existential circle of life, suffering, and death. The play‘s stage with its many film and video projections, and a multitude of spatial and pictorial elements, has the character of an encompassing spatial installation.

In the right wing of the pavilion‘s two side wings, a cinema will present a program of six selected films from different moments in Schlingensief‘s career are played on a large screen: Menu Total (1985–86), Egomania (1986), the Germany trilogy of 100 Jahre Adolph Hitler (1988), Das deutsche Kettensägenmassaker [The German Chainsaw Massacre, 1990], and Terror 2000 (1991–92), as well as his penultimate film, United Trash (1995–96). Presented on a structured schedule, these films exemplify central features of Schlingensief‘s filmic oeuvre. The theater is accessible at all times during the Biennale‘s opening hours and accomplishes two tasks at once, offering an international audience the opportunity to see a significant selection from Schlingensief‘s films—some of which have been subtitled for the first time—while introducing the artist‘s filmic visual language into the canon of visual culture.

The pavilion‘s left wing is dedicated to Schlingensief‘s Operndorf Afrika, his opera village in Africa. Located near Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, it includes a school which houses film and music classrooms, a café, a hospital, and a central theater building with a festival hall. The opera village is under the leadership of Aino Laberenz and planned with architect Francis Kéré. Alongside photographs and documentation of the already realized parts of the African project — and in conjunction with selected scenes from Via Intolleranza II, Schlingensief‘s last play in which he collaborated with actors from Burkina Faso — this portion of the pavilion will feature a large-scale panoramic projection of footage of the natural scenery surrounding the construction site of the opera village, filmed by an African filmmaker Schlingensief himself had commissioned for use in the German Pavilion.

The publication of the German Pavilion in 2011 Christoph Schlingensief published by Sternberg Press, collects more than 30 contributions by authors such as Diedrich Diederichsen, Charlotte Roche, Jonathan Meese, Alexander Kluge, Carl Hegemann, Boris Groys, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Matthias Lilienthal, Thomas Demand and many others.
ISBN 978-1-934105-42-9, about 368 pages, soft cover, € (D) about 29.00

Irm Hermann: From Berliner Republik bis Mea Culpa

I first met Christoph Schlingensief in 1987, when he cast me for his film Schafe in Wales
[Sheep in Wales]. He was still fairly unknown at the time, and at first glance he struck me
as a good-looking young middle-class man who had manners; every mother-in-law’s perfect dream. Yet behind the bourgeois façade lurked a great seducer, who would use his overwhelming charm to drive me into the craziest acts of self-abandonment, something I had not experienced since my time with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. After Fassbinder, with whom I spent a formative chapter of my life, from 1966 until his death in June 1981, and to whom I owe my very personal “Éducation sentimentale” in matters artistic as well as personal, working with Christoph now cast a similarly fascinating spell over me that mixed pleasure, fear, and curiosity. Taking part in one of his projects—he always needed to exert all his charm to persuade me to do it—invariably meant embarking on a trip into the unknown, meant leaping into chaos and hoping that one would eventually emerge unscathed. There were no scripts but inspiring texts aplenty that were tried out and discarded, snippets of film and conversations that developed into scenes and video projections and gradually condensed into a multimedia collage.

Berliner Republik, at Berlin’s Volksbühne, was his first play in which I appeared. He always participated in the acting, was the motor and connector in a loose scenic aggregate. As long as he was the animator, this sort of evening could never really go awry. Repetition bored him, and so he came up with the idea of playing Berliner Republik backward. Five minutes before the curtain would rise he jumbled up the entire sequence of the scenes, and each actor had to see for himself how he would manage the transitions creatively. There were holes that were painfully embarrassing—the audience suffered with us—but also wonderful moments of realistic tension, something one cannot experience on any other stage. Working with him was always most challenging, and we never stood on the firm ground of a finished production. During the performances he would constantly come up with new things that demanded a response, and woe to him who laughed about that, something he did not like at all. He was a berserker and a magician at once. His surprise appearance in Atta Atta , for instance, was magnificent: I am soliloquizing with a flower in my hand, and suddenly he approaches me, covered in white powder and wearing a gigantic set of antlers on his head, moving spastically, throws me into a bathtub on the stage, and “rapes” me. When our mutual “feeling” on the stage was right, it was wonderful. Much of it, after all, played out on the level of the unconscious—it was inexpressible.

This mixture of the Catholic pharmacist’s son and the “abysses” inside him often shocked me. Sometimes I was afraid. When he worked with you, he would sense any weakness, any lack of conscious awareness in you, and use it. “Show your wound,” that was the credo he had adopted from Beuys, and after he was diagnosed with cancer, he worked maniacally, more alive than ever, calling himself into question as well and addressing his innermost feelings head-on in Church of Fear and Mea Culpa. During the long time that I worked with him, my view was often obscured by the hardships that being part of his productions entailed, and he did not seem all that great to me, but now that he is no longer I see the void he has left and realize that he was a giant. That is the one thing I would still like to tell him.

Irm Hermann for Christoph Schlingensief. From the book accompanying the German Pavilion 2011, Sternberg Press (ISBN 978-1-934105-42-9).


Photos by Cosmin Năsui

////////////////////////// vă prezintă, în premieră, un serial dedicat expozițiilor pavilioanelor naționale și evenimentelor paralele și dar și a celor colaterale ale Bienalei de Artă de la Veneția, unul dintre cele mai importante evenimente europene de artă contemporană.

Mulțumim Institutului Român de Cultură şi Cercetare Umanistică de la Veneția și ICR București pentru suportul și sprijinul acordat la realizarea acestui serial.