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Image: Schlingensief
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Attaistic art
The Metabolism of Risk

(by Anna-Catharina Gebbers)

The control freak is the sparring partner of anarchistic order; Christoph Schlingensief's canvasses are painted in accordance with the Beuysian motto that absolute, fully crystallized order means inertia and death, as opposed to the creativity, energy and life associated with chaos. The pictures created by Schlingensief are part of a systematically structured chaos and the product of a staged artificial metabolism, whose circulatory system is subject to process rules, but whose vitality in fact manifests itself in the permission and processing of unforeseeable events.

He borrows the "living brush" that Yves Klein earlier applied to his canvasses. Klein also took the role of director and actively involved artist for his performances. While Klein exercised noble restraint, gallantly helping the ladies onto the canvasses but otherwise keeping his hands clean, Schlingensief, in contrast, himself plays the brush. Like Bruce Naumann, he takes a hands-on approach to the concept of "art make-up". Schlingensief is as such in the best of company; the notion of the "artist as actor" in the Nietzschean mould is also something that artists such as Beuys and Naumann and the performance art and minimal art movements strive for. The artist is placed inside the room. They work with the "embodiment" of art, in the sense that art incorporates individuals while also expanding their scope. They play with the idea of institutionalized art. They celebrate chaos, while torturing the recipients with confusion, emptiness and tedium. They are part of the production, of the theatrical effect, and they break down the clear distinction between performers and spectators. They invite the viewing congregation to take part in a game in which the artist refuses to be the first one to give up.

Exhibition view Christoph Schlingensief / Carmen Brucic
(No York I-IV) 2003 at FUTURE7 | sammlung, Berlin

Witnessing a performance can be like sitting in on somebody else's therapy session. By staging such a profound, revelatory scenario, Schlingensief allows us to see the artist in an extremely vulnerable state. The performance's immediacy gives it an unpredictable, unresolvable, exciting and fragile element. The fears, frustrations and defence responses triggered by the melodramatic physicality are relayed to the viewer, driven to action by physical empathy and fears for his own life. Art that provokes the mind and the emotions has to make its own demands, which sometimes also emerge as a real, chaotic, at times destructive menace. Schlingensief's canvasses comprise a serial documentation of these eruptive on-stage events as they put art and its parameters to the test.

According to Beuys, sculpture is "a constellation of forces comprising a number of terms, of which the three most important are undefined, chaotic, omnidirectional energies, a crystalline form principle consisting of strongly polarized relationships plus a reconciling principle of motion. If we applying this to humanity, it is in psychological terms no different at all to a purely emotion-based form of will that follows an emotional, undirected actionism, an instinctively emotional principle of motion, and a purely formally crystallized, abstract theory." (*).

Affenführer / Monkey-Hitler (The Animatograph, Schloß Neuhardenberg)

Forming the sculpture from the chaotic energy written into these canvasses is up to the user. He is expected, however, to climb into the ring and take up the struggle against chaos and order.

(*) Joseph Beuys, quoted from Zufall als Prinzip, catalogue edited by Bernhard Holeczek/Lida von Mengden, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen am Rhein: 1992, p. 216.

Exhibition view Christoph Schlingensief / Carmen Brucic
(Frieden I-IV, VI) 2003 at FUTURE7 | sammlung, Berlin

Additional information on Christoph Schlingensief

- "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

Schlingensiefs works

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Catalogue raisonné

- "Church of Fear"
- "Frieden I"
- "Frieden II"
- "Frieden III"
- "Frieden IV"
- "Frieden V"
- "Frieden VI"
- "No York I"
- "No York II"
- "No York III"
- "No York IV"
- "No York V"
- "No York VI"
- "Parcifal"
- "Bambi 01"
- "Bambi 02"
- "Bambi 03"
- "Bambi 04"
- "Bambi 05"
- "Buddha Arsch"
- "Hört auf I"
- "Hört auf II"
- "Hört auf III"
- "Leichentuch"