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ART OVER BOARD!

  • TEXT BY JÖRG VAN DER HORST

    »Our opera is a village, a social orchestra, a social sculpture. In this village, life is art. Hence if we collect money to build an opera village as power centre, we are not collecting the money for the people there. We are collecting it for ourselves. We are collecting it so that the people on the spot, who then own the village and live there autonomously, go to school, make films, tend the fields, make music or work in an infirmary, teach us to return to the roots of creativity.
    We now at last quite officially steal people’s creative potential by giving them money. Africa has spiritual and cultural treasures which we have already squandered. But together with the children in the village school we can once again begin to learn. That would be development help as self-help.
    I call on us all to throw our ideas of art over board and invest in the richness of such a place. We will begin with the school. It is to be the centre.«
    — Christoph Schlingensief

    In his influential work Christoph Schlingensief engaged in an interplay between life and art. Always in the knowledge that the one was unbearable without the other. His theatre, opera, subway or street projects were also always attempts to drum life into art – and vice-versa, to convince life that it was to a large extent staged, that it was an art itself. Even more: they were self-experiments, research using himself as guinea pig, operations on the open heart of the entire organism.

    This is particularly true for Opera Village Africa, which Christoph Schlingensief once said was his most important project. The opera village was his last project before his very premature death. Here and now it is above all the first project to survive his death. It lives!

  • »Africa definitely needs anything but an opera house à la Bayreuth. The ambiguity of the project title is not calculated to discourage anyone from making a donation to develop the opera village. But it is welcome. Because this is after all what it is all about – that we recharge our ideas about culture, art, opera, etc. In this way we widen our concept of opera and simply leave aside all the limitations we associate with opera: corpulent people on opulent stages fighting to hit the right note, and opera lovers whose greatest pleasure is to pounce on the one occasion when the right note was missed. We have nothing to do with all of that.«

    The opera village is a tangible project which, thanks to the help and passion of many people, is taking on ever more specific shape and – this is the mundane reality – continues to need money.
    Following the completion of the village school, 50 boys and girls have been attending regular lessons there since October 2011. In a second building phase a start is to be made on erecting an infirmary, solar power station, artists’ residences, homes and guesthouses.

    »What an art if children and young people who can attend lessons let us share in their knowledge! What a celebration if they create their own pictures, make instruments, write stories, set up bands. And what an opera if a newborn child cries in the infirmary we want to build.«

    Opera Village Africa allows us to actively participate in a project which at best will continue without an ending by our putting it in the hands of the children and young people. If we invest in their future, then we are investing in ourselves. Let us expand our concept of life, for then we expand our concept of what culture can be.
    The social sculpture, Schlingensief was convinced, is already here. You do not have to create it first. You have to live it.