Thursday, March 29, 2007

Schlingensief's 18 Images a Second at Haus der Kunst

Schlingensief's 18 Images a Second at Haus der Kunst


Christoph Schlingensief, Production still from the film "African Twin Towers", 2005
© Aino Laberenz.

MUNICH, GERMANY.- The film and theater director and artist Christoph Schlingensief will present his installation "18 Images a Second" at the Haus der Kunst, a work created especially for the building’s former Hall of Honor.

"Time and again I am mistaken for the theater director: My background, though, is in film, not theater. And I fondly remember the times when films were shot on Super-8/16 mm or 35 mm. I remember the destruction of negatives. The painting over memories. The possibility of looking at material years later, when it seemed like a worn out retina, scratched up, detached, shot at by flashes. Everything the eye does, the film material does.
And since I am about to hand over another Wagner opera to the people in Manaus, at the Haus der Kunst I will make allusions to my destroyed past. 18 loops, film loops... destructible, rattling, smelling... no digital anything. Rather an acknowledgement to the lost central thread.
The procession of the blind.
The resurrection of the dead.
The realization that no dead man will be evil.
The joy that God cannot die.
We, however, can. That makes us a film. 18 images of hope and 18 times death."

For the last two years Schlingensief has again begun dealing with the medium film more intensely, something that is clearly reflected in his work for Haus der Kunst. Two filmed work complexes form the installation’s focus: African Twin Towers and short films that are now being shot while the artist directs the Flying Dutchman at the Teatro Amazonas in Manaus, Brazil.

African Twin Towers is a film about Richard Wagner, the attacks of September 11th, Hagen of Tronje, Odin and Edda, living and dead Hereros (members of an African herdsmen tribe), spirits of the present and past. The film location is a "rotating disk," referred to as an "animatograph" by Schlingensief, on which a ship with two masts stands. On these masts hang the Twin Towers. All this stood in Lüderitz in Namibia, a former German colony in south west Africa. The German present is staged and each day the movie begins anew under the constant surveillance of different cameras. This time Schlingensief is everything: director, actor and one of four cameramen. He unites the Nordic and European world of legends with African shamanism and the present, the music of Patti Smith with texts by Elfriede Jelinek and the acting of the Fassbinder actress Irm Hermann. At the same time he has designed a portrait of everyday occurrences in which political "heroes" appear, as well as other figures. He is, metaphorically speaking, constantly in search of charging and discharging, of light and dark contrasts.

Schlingensief will shoot 18 short films in connection with his work on the Flying Dutchman in Manaus. The project’s central theme is the idea of salvation. Richard Wagner was constantly preoccupied with this idea and in his last opera, Parsifal (1882), which Schlingensief staged in 2004 for the Bayreuth Festival, he tried to come to terms with it once and for all. According to Schlingensief, the Flying Dutchman is in search of an image that grants him salvation but finds none. And even Senta, as his loving wife, has an image that she would like to have redeemed and yet finds no happiness in it.

Schlingensief embeds the Manaus films in an installation, which is dominated by an oversized carnival float on which Jesus and Mohammed partake in the Lord’s Supper.

Located underneath the carnival float are various swimming pool changing booths, in which the 16 mm format films from Manaus and Africa rattle away. The entire footage of the film African Twin Towers is shown on 18 monitors located in a crypt-like space, with a total playing time of 18 hours. Despite the collective rattling of the projectors and the aesthetics of the 16 mm Bolex camera used, each room is dedicated to a specific theme and creates its own celestial bodies.

"No film cutting can create what one can do with a Bolex. Even blind people can use the Bolex. It shoots... and after 30 seconds the material is used up. Then it needs to be reloaded. Even if you are blind you can shoot with it. Image for image... individual images... like with a revolver. And it is less cryptic than our family tree." (Schlingensief)

With the use of a rotating aperture, handmade fade-ins and fade-outs, material developed partially by hand, the grain of the black and white material and short loops, Schlingensief achieves a speed that carries viewers away. And still the viewer is kept grounded by the center created with the camera’s gaze.

Schlingensief’s radicalism lies in his subjective selection and in the non-hierarchical juxtaposition of images, themes and people. He believes in the sensual power of images and in the observer’s ability to free himself from his desire for linearity.

Following his overlapping installations in places such as Neuhardenberg (Animatograph II) and the Burgtheater in Vienna (Area 7), in which he transgressed the limits of theater towards installation, Schlingensief now will have his first large solo presentation in an art institution.

"For Schlingensief it is not a question of sharply focused things but rather haziness. I would like to endorse this belief since things that are clear are not inspiring. The world in its entirety is, in fact, incomprehensible." (Stephanie Rosenthal).


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