Christoph Schlingensief (1960 – 2010)
It feels like there’s a lot of death around lately. When Michael was overdosed I was a mess with millions of others around the world. My youth had officially died with him and the intensity of that came as quite a shock. Matt tattooed ‘BAD’ on my arm on the day of MJ’s last breath and that was the end of that. Listened to ‘Billie Jean’ a couple of times and moved on.
But last Saturday my little TIM world shattered into a million screaming and hopeless pieces with the death of Christoph Schlingensief. A big chunk of faith has been ripped out of me and living without it is going to be a difficult challenge.
I mentioned before that the magnificent world of art opened its doors to me with a Joseph Beuys retrospective in Zürich’s ‘Kunsthaus’ in 1993. That experience changed everything. Puberty and Beuys. All of a sudden art (and life) didn’t have any boundaries at all anymore. The only country without borders. No rules. Art and life suddenly melted and became fat. But Beuys was a reheated memory and there was no direct reality between him and myself. I bought a hat just like his. But it takes balls to wear it.
In 1997 I ran into Schlingensief for the first time on TV (Talk 2000). It was the most Rock N’ Roll thing I had ever seen. Hooked immediately. This guy made Bukowski (my only true rebel at the time) look like Papa Smurf. In the year 2000 Schlingensief did the show ‘U 3000’ on MTV and that shit was just straight twisted. It was all too intelligent, fucked up and provocative for this world. A beautiful thing.
On a friendly evening after work in 2001, I was strolling through the Niederdorf with a beer and a smile. At the Hirschenplatz I was stopped dead in my tracks. Mr. Schlingensief and his wicked ensemble were causing public havoc. He was about to kidnap Zürich with his ‘Hamlet’ at the ‘Schauspielhaus’ and openly abusing everyone with art. Magic. There was so much tension in the air and you didn’t have to pay for it. For details of this über-performance check the internet, but here’s what’s important: My hometown was on fire. From politician to street cleaner, everybody was living art. Endless discussions and arguments, demonstrations, pros & cons, artistic freedom, social responsibility. It was unbelievable. Zürich was vibrant with intellectual combat. This weird guy from Germany made us lose our cool and face the music. I haven’t experienced anything like it since. It was one of those few times where I knew that some sort of history was being made and I felt very honored to be a tiny part of it. I saw ‘Hamlet’ three times. Schlingensief signed my ‘Nazis Rein – Nazis Raus’ book with stage blood from his face. It was my Woodstock.
In 2001 Christoph Schlingensief did an intimate solo-presentation of ‘Rosebud’ in the ‘Schiffbau’ in Zürich. This is where I met and fell in love with Stephanie.
In 2002 Schlingensief plus ensemble performed ‘Quiz 3000 – Du bist die Katastrophe’ in the Schiffbau. It was the first time I met my soon to be stepfather. Good Schlingensief. Good stepdad. Nice evening.
In 2004 I saw ‘Attabambi-Pornoland’ at the Schauspielhaus four times. It was the most addictive, enthralling, drug-free experience of my life. ‘Attabambi’ had it all. You could close the book and stop reading altogether after that one. Amazing.
In 2008 I was exhibited next to a Schlingensief installation at the ZKM in Karlsruhe. It was an installation about his cancer. He was dying. But it wasn’t real. It was art.
In 2010 Christoph Schlingensief died. Now the art is real. And it feels like it’s all over. The sheer amount of his explosive creativity is simply overwhelming. He was obsessed. He knew what was going on and he wasn’t scared to show us. He was the only one. He had to. He did what we were all so frightened of doing, but secretly hoping for. He was beautifully brilliant and insane. The last true challenger of everything and everyone including himself. We were all safe until last Saturday. Christoph Schlingensief was making sure that art and life wouldn’t all go to hell. We could lean back, watch and take it relatively easy. But now he’s dead. Now we’re responsible. And we’re alone. My deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. – TIM
‘Er war einer der grössten Künstler, der je gelebt hat. So einen wie ihn kann es nicht mehr geben. Ich dachte immer, so jemand kann nicht sterben. Das ist, als ob das Leben selbst gestorben wäre.’ – Elfriede Jelinek