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Bringing Beuys to Africa : Christoph Schlingensief's Opera Village as Implementation of the Social Sculpture

Title data

Lehmann, Fabian:
Bringing Beuys to Africa : Christoph Schlingensief's Opera Village as Implementation of the Social Sculpture.
Event: Beuys, the Last Romantic? , 26. Februar 2015 , Université Rennes II.
(Conference item: Conference , Speech )

Abstract in another language

Beuys was not the last romantic. The ideas and ideals of Romanticism as an era during 19th century create a store of images and visions German artists still draw on. Those current references to the era of Romanticism form "das Romantische", which is not bound to a specific time in history, as Rüdiger Safranski argues. One of the artists making use of romantic ideas and translating them into today’s language and imagery was Christoph Schlingensief (1960–2010).

Since the 1990s Schlingensief referred to late romantic Richard Wagner but most of all to Joseph Beuys. Schlingensief met Beuys as a teenager when he accompanied his father for a talk of Beuys in front of a bourgeois public in Oberhausen. This is an early encounter, Schlingensief used to talk about often, as he was impressed by the impact Beuys has had on his father. Later as an artist Schlingensief cited Beuys directly within his own work. His performance “Mein Filz, mein Fett, mein Hase, 48 Stunden Überleben für Deutschland” at documenta x in 1997 became well known as Schlingensief and actor Bernhard Schütz were arrested by the police.

But also the last and ongoing project of Schlingensief, the African Opera Village in Burkina Faso, is strongly inspired by Wagner’s opera house in Bayreuth as well as Beuys’ Soziale Plastik. For Schlingensief the opera village was not so much about the buildings, like the small hospital or the school, that shape the village, but it was more about the visualising of the social sculpture, which for Schlingensief already existed when the constructions for the opera village began in 2010. To understand the opera village as a work of art, one need to follow the premise that the Burkinabé not only craft the buildings they will live in and work at but the social sculpture itself.

In my talk for the conference I want to introduce Schlingensief as an artist fuelled by romantic motifs and argue that via his work the romantic heritage Beuys related to and shaped within his oeuvre diffuses into our recent times and also into contexts only scarcely related to the world of art. Through the opera village the concept of the social sculpture penetrates places in Africa and also institutional contexts usually related to development aid and not to art. But even more as Schlingensief died in 2010, it has to be questioned if his vision will ever come close to what Beuys once imagined.

Further data

Item Type: Conference item (Speech)
Refereed: No
Keywords: Christoph Schlingensief; Joseph Beuys; Operndorf Afrika; Social Sculpture; Romanticism
Institutions of the University: Research Institutions > Research Units > Iwalewa-Haus - Afrikazentrum der Universität Bayreuth
Research Institutions
Research Institutions > Research Units
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 700 Arts and recreation > 700 Arts
900 History and geography > 940 History of Europe
Date Deposited: 02 Jan 2018 16:09
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2018 16:09