When Christoph Schlingensief was diagnosed with cancer in early 2008 everything went upside down, but his work continued thriving. His drive to disrupt the normative perception as well as to point out social ills is especially evident in his visualisation of ill and dying people. With his intention of appealing and activating the collective he fits in with the concern of the historical avant-gardes: the connection of art and daily life, the rise of a political consciousness in terms of social issues and further the deconstruction of the topos of the ingenious artist. Compared to selected pieces of work by related artists it is striking that Schlingensief’s art goes beyond the codes of common artistic self-representation of illness as he combines it with self-initiated social projects. In his approach Schlingensief represents a hybrid in two different spheres; between life and death and individual and society. Thus he lives in the awareness of soon being inescapably dead and secondly he acts as an hybrid between the roles of self-authorized prophet and omnipotent God. On both levels he fights with the opposites of disappearance and presence - which are finally reconciled in his last project, the Operndorf Afrika.
In classical sociology, the arts were perceived as the sphere of individual compensation for social alienation and, as such, rather marginal for sociological consideration. This attribution has changed massively since the 1960s. From that point, sociological theory began to ascribe to the arts the role of a ‚primary coding‘ of society. The paper juxtaposes the well-known approaches of Pierre Bourdieu, Niklas Luhmann and Antoine Hennion with the artistic work of Christoph Schlingensief and explores the fundamental challenges that sociological theory finds itself confronted with in view of Schlingensief’s artistic position.
Philip Ursprung, an expert on Allan Kaprow, met Schlingensief at an exhibition about Kaprow in Munich in 2006 and then, at Schlingensief’s Kaprow City and Trem Fantasma installations in 2006 and 2007. Ursprung describes the two installations as being situated between sculpture and performance, art and theatre, spatiality and temporality.
Dietrich Kuhlbrodt shares memories of his time working with Christoph Schlingensief, who used to address Kuhlbrodt and his wife Brigitte Kausch as his parents. Following decades of working for Schlingensief as an actor, Kuhlbrodt recalls Schlingensief’s humour and his unpredictability as core concepts in all his works – challenging for everyone, his collaborators, his home institutions, his audiences, and for himself.