“Action, action, action!” was the slogan of the late experimental theater artist Christoph Schlingensief’s political party Chance 2000 – a chant that is undeniably significant in the days leading up to the German Parliament elections. When threats and hatred are spread, silence is compliance.
The Operndorf Afrika project was conceived by Schlingensief in 2009 and is now led by his widow Aino Laberenz, who has evolved the project into a platform for intercultural exchange in Burkina Faso. During an auction held at König Galerie on September 22nd, t-shirts designed by renowned artists like Paul McCarthy, Mark Bradford, and Alicja Kwade will be sold, and 032c is contributing a Schlingensief Space Patrol T-shirt that bears the title of his 1997 play “Schlacht um Europa I-XLII / Ufokrise ’97: Raumpatrouille Schlingensief.” All profits will be donated to the Operndorf Afrika Foundation.
On the occasion, 032c’s Eva Kelley spoke with Aino Laberenz about what Schlingensief’s space patrol play means today, how to deal will the rise of populism, and why this year, it’s: vote or die.
Eva Kelley: What is your favourite thing that has been achieved with the Operndorf Afrika since it was conceived in 2009?
Aino Laberenz: There isn’t one specific thing that sticks out. Of course, sending the children to school, the art workshops with the kids, re-starting the building process – those are moments you don’t forget. I’m also touched by the reception and encouragements of the participating artists. How an artist like Anri Sala created a sound installation with tunes from the Operndorf. Andy Hope 1930 built a sculpture. I think about the artist-in-residence program and how new stories – not just mine or my team’s – develop there.
Burkina Faso is a very young democracy. What do you think Europe can learn from Burkina Faso’s politics?
It sounds mundane, but it all comes down to mutual respect. Only a few people here even know about the political situation in Burkina Faso, probably because there is not a lot of interest in it. I think this is an expression of arrogance. Some parties debate about refugee issues with the motivation that it is disturbing the quaint concept of life we have here. That isn’t right. We are complicit in the existence of the situation, which boils down to a lack of respect and the exploitation of the refugee crisis for populist views. The coup d’état in Burkina Faso happened because of the people there. That should open our eyes here as well. I am impressed by the passion of the Burkinabés for changing their country and protesting for this change.
How do you deal with the rise of populism?
It’s important to question supposedly simple statements through their underlying complex themes and to listen to both sides in a conflict. Politics cannot and should not be comfortable. Altercations are important and have to be discussed. I don’t believe in populist statements, and I hope that they don’t persevere in our society.
In a few days, the German election will be held and there is a lot of tension surrounding the results. What can we do to ensure our generation will integrate politics permanently into their lifestyles?
I have always felt that it is our duty to vote, but even more so through the experience I’ve made with the Operndorf in the past years. It isn’t something to take for granted. Not everyone has the right to democratic elections and not everyone has it so easy that they can use their vote to shape a government. In the last years, there has been an increased pressure from the Right in Germany. And this aggression and hate has become normal, so to speak, which makes it even scarier. It’s important to speak out against nationalism, xenophobia, and homophobia. I do think that we are in a time of transition – not just in Germany and Europe – and it isn’t possible to stay out of it, because we are in the middle of it.
What does Christoph Schlingensief’s 1997 play “Schlacht um Europa I-XLII / Ufokrise ’97: Raumpatrouille Schlingensief” mean today?
On Christoph’s website it says that, “The spaceflight of the theater group resembles a feast, or more so, a farewell to the grandeur of civilized humanity, which, after subjugating the earth, expands into the universe to find new subordinates.” When you look at Donald Trump or at what is happening in Europe, then the term “civilized” seems absurd. The fact that Europe didn’t renegotiate with the US on the Paris Climate Accord, for example. Or that North-Korea is setting off hydrogen bombs. Brexit. That we are working against each other instead of with each other when it comes to the “subjugation of the earth.” These are exactly the kinds of relationships and proportions that Christoph was referring to in 1997. This title, or rather, what he did with the title, and the 032c Operndorf Afrika t-shirt that bears the play’s title, should encourage people to move out of their comfort zones, vote, and think outside of Germany’s box!