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Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition
Picture: Georg Soulek
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Attaistic art
AREA 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition

Congestions in Front of the Holy "Archetypal Loo"

By Bernhard Flieher, Salzburger Nachrichten

In front of the "Archetypal Loo" there is a congestion. But whoever wants to get to the "War Memorial" and the "Snake in the Asshole", the "Rabbits' Revelation" or the "Church" has to pass here. Now, however, there is a congestion. How good that Hermann Nitsch is standing there. "The visitors themselves determine the relations", said Christoph Schlingensief, the initiator of this project, in his introduction a few minutes before. So why not quickly ask, "How do you like it, Mr. Nitsch?" - "He knows the arch-secret, just as I do." - "And what is the arch-secret?" - "A secret."

As secret as the fact that Nitsch is not Nitsch but acted by Hermann Scheidleder. Play or show or reality - who cares? Irm Hermann, who made films with Fassbinder, looks and acts like Andy Warhol. Yesterday she was standing there as well and "nobody had noticed", she says. Why should anybody?

Parsifal and Africa, Wagner and Jackson

In the meantime Patti Smith, the rock poetess and punk icon, who is standing on the grand stairwell, asks what the grail is. And so people move through a jungle of legends and myths, of Parsifal and Africa, Wagner and Michael Jackson, which Schlingensief has made grow in the Burgtheater.

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

Just like in the Dylan song "Desolation Row" figures emerge and submerge: some of them famous, some of them of an obscure significance, all of them important in Schlingensief's artistic coordination system. Where do they come from? What do they want? Do they really exist? These questions chase the visitor through Schlingensief's collection. And they cause the unpleasantly exciting feeling that here people are meant to reflect about everything and nothing. This means leaving behind the venerable of this place and explore it in the same way as an unknown land and forget about time completely. This also means experiencing everything from within rather than witnessing it from the outside. The senses are beguiled. Yet it is not distracting beauty, nor eternally valid quotations of the world theatre that do so, but it is the dirt and reality and noise of the world that come down on the visitors. There are wailing feedbacks, roaring e-guitars and lulling orchestra tunes.

The title of the event is "Area 7 - St. Matthew's Expedition", but it might as well be "Slum Party" or "The Roaring World Carrousel" or "Outlocking Mozart". Whatever this event is, it has little to do with traditional theatre.

"Area 7? is also the name of a township in Namibia. Last autumn Schlingensief made the film "The African Twin Towers" there. Better said: he wanted to make it. 300 hours of footage were recorded, but they will never be turned into a film. Parts of it, however, are on show as videos in the Burgtheater. In addition to that, Elfriede Jelinek can be seen reading her texts, as well as Robert Stadlober with a guitar in his hands, and the guide who appears in the VIP box, where (according to Schlingensief) "Paula Wessely and Horst Wessely" have already been too. And Schlingensief had a ship towed here right from Africa. Fitzcarraldo once did so in the Brazilian jungle in order to build an opera house. No wonder that Schlingensief is dreaming of realizing one of his next actions in Brazil (or in Nepal). Nothing less than a house of art does he build, wherever he settles down for a short period of time.

Nobody looks as quickly as Schlingensief thinks

The 45-year old German all-round artist came to Africa, because he had been to Iceland before. And he came to this island, because in 2004 he had had his much praised opera debut in Bayreuth with his staging of "Parsifal".

Bayreuth opened doors, he says. And as all this is already quite complicated, it may still be of no importance whatsoever. It is no bad idea, however, to know that. As well as it is no bad idea to know about Beuys or Warhol, about sacral rites or pop, about world politics and advertising slogans, in order to be able to take part in Schlingensief's actions.

Nobody can look as quickly as Schlingensief thinks. Nobody can hear as much as Schlingensief talks - or makes others talk, shout or croak through loudspeakers or megaphones. Everyone consumes as much as he can from four hours of "Area 7". Or he leaves it, or he finds it entertaining or totally cluttered up.

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

In 1000 things that nobody needs to forget before even noticing them, Schlingensief chases the visitors in free move through the entire renowned house at the Ringstraße. Through Schlingensief's work, however, knowledge is not necessarily gained from all the knowledge we may already have or information we may receive. This is not his intention. There is no first night show of his expedition, which "every day may turn out in a different way". No beginning nor ending are planned (although today, Friday, an inauguration takes place). This means that whoever wants to join the expedition may do so whenever or wherever he wants to.

Schlingensief does not teach. He collects artistic models, every-day myths and religious mania. He roams through the world, and he offers whatever keeps sticking to him for further use. In his animatographs he has arranged quotations and theses, flashy announcements and slogans, paintings and video arts. These animatographs are revolving stages, filled with objects and life (real life and per video) and divided into different segments. Who looks out of them from the inside experiences how a continuously new film appears on the surrounding screens due to the rotary motion. A maze of small rooms is created, which open up an entire universe of associations. As a result a kind of tent city grows far into the stalls of the Burgtheater.

Nomadising in the parallel universe

The nomadic lifestyle suits Schlingensief well, who loves talking about parallel universes. It is all about distributing. A division of the universe according to a free interpretation of Schlingenschief's would roughly mean that whoever reads these lines, will also talk about what a few pages further back in this paper is written about sports or think of "Desolation Row". So what, asks Schlingensief, is true, what is important?

Only Patti Smith is real. She first met Schlingensief in Bayreuth and since then has been following him. When singing, she is still spitting as she always used to do. "Holy Trash" - that's this "Anamanito… amananagraf - I don't know what it is called. Christoph keeps telling me, but I really can't memorize it." - "Animatograph", somebody tries to help. "Yeah. That's it", says Smith. That is this "crazy thing" by "crazy people", who have been let in by the other "crazy guys". Why? - Well, she does not really know. But she says she feels fine here. She feels that something is moving here. "I believe in what is going on here."

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