Interview with the commissioner of German Pavilion, Susanne Gaensheimer, Golden Lion for Best National Participation at the 54th International Art Exhibition
German Pavilion website
Dr. Susanne Gaensheimer, Commissioner of the German Pavilion of the 54th Venice Biennial in 2011 and Director of MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt/Main, has announced that the work of Christoph Schlingensief will be presented in Venice despite his untimely death.
“When inviting Christoph Schlingensief in May of this year I explained that my basic idea was to approach an artist of my generation, who has worked for a significant time (which in the case of Christoph Schlingensief was almost 30 years) and in a significant way, someone who not only witnessed the artistic, social and political issues of the two decades of post-reunification Germany, but also took an active role in defining them. Christoph Schlingensief was one of the most important artists in this country, one who never shied away from voicing his opinion and maintaining his position, wholeheartedly, even towards himself, with the utmost clarity and directness, such as is necessary if you want to comment on conditions effectively. Christoph Schlingensief’s tragic death has in no way affected my conviction that the decision to invite him was the right one,” Dr. Susanne Gaensheimer concludes.
From the early 1980s onwards, Christoph Schlingensief explored a variety of different media in his work. He made films, was involved in political action, theater, art projects, and opera. Even though he originally decidedly left behind the legacy of what was known as Neue Deutsche Film (new German film), on many levels we can compare his work to that of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In particularly, this is true as regards team work, an approach that, though common in the world of film and theater, still tends to be the exception in the visual arts, and yet influenced his work for decades. The fact that Schlingensief immersed himself in such a variety of different media and genres makes it impossible to pigeonhole him. Indeed, a key aspect of his work consists of transgressing and dissolving genre-specific boundary lines and the alleged clarity of form and content. Schlingensief’s oeuvre is extremely complex and it is in the nature of his work that it finds itself in a permanent state of self-exploration and change. Schlingensief used language as the fundamental starting point for his work, across the board. As there are no translations, subtitles or English versions of his work, the German Pavilion will not only to present Schlingensief’s work, but will also make it accessible to an international audience.
Christoph Schlingensief had a multitude of ideas and thoughts during the intense collaborative effort committed to his project for the German Pavilion, and some of those ideas were already very detailed. Nonetheless, Susanne Gaensheimer had decided not to use them: “It is impossible to realize a Christoph Schlingensief project without Christoph Schlingensief. Almost a year before the Biennial was due to open a number of questions were of course not yet answered, and anyone who ever experienced Schlingensief’s way of working will tell you that up until opening day there would have been countless changes. No one will ever be able to replace him, and without him it will be impossible to see his ideas through to the end. That said, we will document his plans and ideas using a variety of different media.”