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Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition
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AREA 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition

"Grand Master in Making a Mess"

The 4th Station of the Way of the Cross: Christoph Schlingensief's "Animatograph" is stirring up the Vienna Burgtheater.

By Stephan Hilpold, Frankfurter Rundschau

Shacks instead of conventional seating, flickering projectors at the ceiling, loudspeaker announcements and wailing sirens. As if the stage had exploded - and with it the entire auditorium. Christoph Schlingensief is a guest at the Vienna Burgtheater, this fortress of the high arts of the theatre. This time he is wearing a suit, standing next to the rock poetess Patti Smith in person, who became one of Schlingensief's disciples after having experienced his Parzival in Bayreuth. She is holding a coffee mug in her hands. From the VIP box, where usually Austria's most important personalities sit, they both look down at their work. In Indian file the spectators are tripping ahead at a slow pace, are looking into peepholes or at monitors, or greasing their hands with margarine. And Schlingensief and Smith thought that it was good.

Area 7
Installation view: Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition, Vienna, 2006

For those who for the first time dare set foot into these boarded sheds, the dens with their secret paths and surprise presents, this seems to be mere chaos. A unique challenge to city cowboys. A rough plan has been put into the hands of the visitors to facilitate orientation, and on the grand stairwell Schlingensief and Co. give some useful advice, but as it happens to be in orienteering: everyone has to find his own way - through a world that according to Schlingensief and his fellows is subject to an order its fourth stage of development.

Animatograph is what they called their mini-universe when setting off in Iceland nine months ago. It was a revolving stage amidst a maze that Schlingensief had made turn in the basement of a cultural centre. It meant rotating with Odin and Thor, with Bambi and Parzival, with Beuys and Dieter Roth. An underground action. A wild hotchpotch of myths amidst ice and snow. That ice and snow have melted in the meantime. From Iceland the journey continued to Neuhardenberg near Berlin and later to Lüderitz in Namibia, where the project was given the title "Area 7", referring to a corrugate-iron township at the outskirts of the town. There Schlingensief made his first film in eight years (The African Twin Towers). The original animatograph was sold (to the patron of arts Francesca of Habsburg), newer versions of his animatographs and many other objects were created. And finally he arrived at the Burgtheater in Vienna. As if this was the most natural thing in the world.

Through St. Matthew's Expedition

Some weeks ago the actionist Hermann Nitsch was a guest at the Burgtheater. At last he was allowed to perform his blood-and-bowel games in the sanctum sanctorum of his unloved home country. And now it is Schlingensief's turn. During his performance, too, the smell of incense is in the air - which seems more than natural in an evening whose subheading is "St. Matthew's Expedition".

The passion of Christ becomes an obsession of the shaman from Oberhausen. The ordeal becomes a feast of joy. However, the calls for redemption remain. This time Schlingensief's way of the Cross has something extraordinarily devotional about it. "A soft evening", this is what he had announced at the beginning, "not an evening of aggression". Patti Smith spoke about harmony and then sang her enchanting songs. Is it the setting of the Burgtheater's hallow halls that turn the entire show into a kind of mystery play? Or is Schlingensief approaching the core of his endeavours?

Area 7
Installation view: Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition, Vienna, 2006

The knight of the grail Schlingensief had set off for his journey in order to expose his "actionist photographic plate", as he called it then, to his own experiences, to those of the visitors, to the impressions of the places where he stopped during his trip. In Iceland, however, images of the Bayreuth staging of Parzival as well as Jelinek's Bambiland were still the central topics. But now he is approaching his own gods: The second revolving stage of the Burgtheater, apart from that of the animatograph (in the auditorium), namely the one on the stage itself, is crowned by a ship. The sails of the Flying Dutchman, surrounded by Roth's extravagant rooms, Beuys' holy stations, Brus' chambers, Jelinek's readings and stations of Schlingensief's life. The felt and the fat, the oaks and the rabbits. The mother's womb and the father's universe, the action films and Wagner's son.

Excretions and search for evidence

"Schlingensief is a grand master in shitting", says Bazon Brok, the cultural theorist, at a certain point of the lecture he gives amid the shanty town during the long actionist installation, which has already been opened in the late afternoon and comes to an end only briefly before midnight (it is the fourth one in a row), "a grand master in the art of making a mess." A great digestive artist whose excretions are the most expressive evidence: nonetheless, the endeavour of following the right track is not easy for those involved, who therefore are fully taken in by the artist.

For it is as wrong to consider Schlingensief as one making use of practically everything he may come across as it is to decipher his parallel universes in all their details. The searcher of the grail is still a young boy who thumbs his nose to the others, a cheerful actionist who, due to his extraordinary capacity to distance himself from his work, outdoes fellow artists such as Nitsch or Brus. And he is always in the mood for jokes: he makes Michael Jackson appear and perform a lunar dance, the past twenty years of the acting icon and Schlingensief fellow Irm Hermann are analysed, and Robert Stadlober explains the words of his Chinese actor colleague who guides visitors backstage.

Yet the master of ceremonies sits enthroned observing everything that is going on, and at the end of an extraordinarily dense evening he gives the sign to set off for the St. Matthew Passion, the sails of the Flying Dutchman are struck and the journey is over - for the time being. Soon, however, it will continue: to Nepal and Brazil.

Vienna, Burgtheater: "Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition by Christoph Schlingensief": New installations in March at the Wiener Burgtheater.

Gallery: Area 7 at the Vienna Burgtheater, Jan. 2006

Additional information on Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition

- Area 7 Program Booklet - 96 pages with lots of installation pictures (PDF)
- Schlingensief at Burgtheater Wien - ARTFORUM magazine, May issue 2006
- Bubbling Animatographs - Süddeutsche Zeitung on Area 7
- Grand Master in Making a Mess - The Frankfurter Rundschau on Area 7
- Congestions in Front of the Holy "Archetypal Loo" - Salzburger Nachrichten
- The Global Oedipal Passion - Austrian daily Der Standard on Area 7
- Palpating everything as if it was the first time - Die ZEIT on Area 7
- "The Last Artist" - Austrian magazine "FALTER" on the Area 7 expedition
- Congestions in Front of the Holy "Archetypal Loo" - Salzburger Nachrichten
- Area 7 Gallery II - Impressions of the St. Matthew's Expedition in May 2006
- Area 7 Gallery I - Impressions of the St. Matthew's Expedition in January 2006
- Area 7 Panorama I - Panorama view of the Area 7 installation
- Area 7 Panorama II - Another panorama view of the Area 7 installation
- Burgtheater Vienna - Burgtheater website, ticket sale, schedule, information

Area 7 press reviews

- ARTFORUM 05/2006
- Süddeutsche
- Frankf. Rundschau
- Salzburger Nachr.
- Der Standard
- Die ZEIT

Picture galleries

- Area 7 gallery Jan.
- Area 7 gallery May
- Area 7 Booklet (PDF)

External links

- Burgtheater Vienna
- Filmgalerie 451


St. Matthew's Expedition with Christoph Schlingensief

Cast: Karin Witt, Irm Hermann, Jovita Domingos-Dendo, Patti Smith, Klaus Beyer, Christoph Schlingensief, Bernhard Schütz, Hermann Scheidleder, Björn Thors, Horst Gelonneck, Robert Stadlober, Karin Lischka, Abate Ambachev, Dirk Rohde

Burgtheater Wien
First Expedition at
January 20th, 2006

Christoph Schlingensief

Costumes: Aino Laberenz; Construction: Thekla von Mülheim, Tobias Buser; Dramaturgy: Jörg van der Horst, Joachim Lux, Henning Naß; Video/Cut: Kathrin Krottenthaler; additional Video/Cut: Meika Dresenkamp; Sound: Uwe Altmann; Assistant directors: Barbara Nowotny, Sophia Simitzis; Assistant constructor: Andrea Flachs; Assistant costume designers: Dagmar Bald, Veronika Mund; Assistant video: Marlene Prainsack; Director's trainees: Michael Csar, Sarah Wulbrandt; Construction trainee: Gabriela Neubauer; Dramaturgy trainee: Katharina Zobler; Webdesign: Patrick Hilss

Musicians: Klaus Falschlungerer, Perry Wurzinger, Gerhard Rosner, Muriel Stadelmann, Erik Bilic-Eric, Begleitmusiker Patti Smith: Clementine Gasser, Lenny Dickinson, Andreas Radovan

...and also the "Kunst in Aktion" class of the HBK Braunschweig: Alexandra Heide, Ellen Druwe, Yingmei Duan, Eun Hye Hwang, Tina Kramer, Franziska Pester, Dorothea von Stilfried, Malte Struck, Dennis Feser, Axel Loytved, Mirko Winkel

Stage manager: Roman Dorninger; Technical supervision: Christian Venghaus; Sound: David Müllner, Florian Pilz; Video/Burgtheater: Andreas Ryba, Stefan Göbl; Prop: Martin Dürr; Stage technician: Gerhard Weese