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There has always been potential for the emergence of churches and religious confessions; to a large extent, systems of belief are created through ailment and frustration, through traditional fabricators of fear. Director and performance artist Christoph Schlingensief plans a four-part year-long project to celebrate the foundation of the CHURCH of FEAR on March 20, 2003. Armed with pervasive terms such as Weltanschauung, sectarianism and religious confession, its nine initiators decided to proclaim a community of non-believers that renounces the beliefs proffered by "public secret societies" in the worlds of politics, business and culture. The CHURCH of FEAR is openly suspicious of sermons from political sectarians, TV evangelists and global conspiracists; they stand accused of instrumentalizing weakness and pain, frustration and hysteria - of consumerizing fear.

The CHURCH of FEAR aims for a practical artistic dialogue with ideological groups in times of depression and (self-)doubt. It makes no promises and imposes no dogmas on its "followers".

CHURCH OF FEAR's 1. Int. pole-sitting contest in Venice (Image: Schnepf)

The sole principle of the CHURCH of FEAR is profession of one's own fear - the fear of growing old, fear of death, terror or of betrayal. FEAR IS THE FIRST COMMANDMENT. Expressed with confidence, the profession of this fear prevents the latter being created and utilized by third parties: "FEAR YE!"

Christoph Schlingensief's CHURCH of FEAR extends the sectarian concept to include systems that lead, i.e. that shape opinions, i.e. define beliefs. Of crucial significance here is an understanding of system-defining interest groups; TV shows are our midday and midnight masses, the political pecking order is the new gospel and the guidelines of the New Economy are apocryphal scriptures. A common characteristic feature is the internal fabrication of messengers, prophet figures and messiahs, of their gospels and promises of salvation. In the midst of a modern society in a state of permanent and radical evolution, they almost regularly represent the barely relevant attempt to promise their followers painless paradises. They are assisted here by the recourse to supposed revelations or modern-day gospels that for the most part range between the fictional and the merely misleading.

CHURCH OF FEAR's 1. Int. pole-sitting contest in Venice (Image: Schnepf)

Every single construct of reality, whether in advertising or politspeak, is dependent on its adoption, i.e. the faith of the consumer, the belief of the congregation.

While working within the context of new promises of salvation, the CHURCH of FEAR does not claim to be the expression of this force. It does not merely preach a spirit of negation, of personal agitation against politics or ideologies, or of antireligious prejudice. The CHURCH of FEAR sets out to explore the origins of this force - using the means provided by art while surpassing the confines of art, i.e. the system. Just as understanding the perspectives of others must begin with a detailed examination of the terms they think and speak in, so does the CHURCH of FEAR intend to investigate these perspectives - affirmatively and, at the same time, inquisitively.

CHURCH OF FEAR's 2. Int. pole-sitting contest in Nepal (Image: Brucic)

This will require the CHURCH of FEAR to formulate views of its own if it is to avoid appearing negligent. It therefore grants insights into its own system, the system of the CHURCH of FEAR, and will have to substantiate its suspicion. Just like the observed systems themselves, the CHURCH of FEAR thus assumes a position that likewise invites scrutiny.

Denominations and common beliefs are social movements that to a degree share the same tribal heritage. They are hierarchical in nature and employ a variety of rituals. From the structural point of view, such tribal constructs may be seen as lacking in depth and durability. In order to establish trust, they have to adapt to new developments as a means of bonding believers - ergo: customers, ergo: voters, as well. These "modern tribes" must submit to these changes, in doing so forfeiting the bulk of their principles and traditions.

CHURCH OF FEAR's 3. Int. pole-sitting contest in Frankfurt (Image: Hilss)

The CHURCH of FEAR rehearses the BECOMING, the BEING and the ENDING of an (anti-) entity, of a community of (non-)believers.

What the CHURCH of FEAR expresses is not its displeasure; it expresses its concerns about prevailing circumstances.

The CHURCH of FEAR decrees: "Fear Ye!"

The CHURCH of FEAR has a task: affirmative investigations into everyday dictates, media constructs, marketing dogmas (e.g. "We are the belief police ...") as illustrated by a construct within the artistic realm: the CHURCH of FEAR.

The CHURCH of FEAR faces the yawning gap between systems of belief founded on confession and hope, and markets based on facts and figures, in doing so creating a picture of an all-encompassing system whose faith in everything is jeopardized by facts and figures and which transfigures an often frustrating truth into a distorted reality that is compatible with its (waning) convictions.

All three forces are subject to insufficient scepticism or suspicion stemming from insecurity, from FEAR.

CHURCH OF FEAR performance in Vienna, Austria (Image: Hohlschneider)

Additional information on the CHURCH OF FEAR (COF)

- CHURCH OF FEAR Gallery - Images from the COF-events throughout the world
- CHURCH OF FEAR Website - The worldwide CHURCH OF FEAR's holy web portal
- "Totally confusing supposed unambiguities" - by Marion Löhndorf, Kunstforum
- It's not going - biography by the Guggenheim Museum New York (1998)
- Christoph Schlingensief - A biography by Till Briegleb, Goethe Institut
- Schlingensief.com German - Further information is available in german only
1st International Pole-Sitting Contest
Biennale Venice

2nd International Pole-Sitting Contest
Kathmandu, Nepal

"Schreitender Leib"
Köln- Frankfurt a.M.

Frankfurt a.M.

3rd International Pole-Sitting Contest
Frankfurt a.M.

Additional information

- Picture Gallery

External web sites

- C.O.F. Website

Related projects

- Bambiland
- Attabambi-Pornoland