Cello TV, 2008

Installation view: German Pavilion, Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy, 2011
Photo: Roman Mensing | artdoc.de

Three-channel video installation on monitors, violin bow, string, gaffer tape, acrylic glass, 2 CD boxes
1 min 23 s (videos)
Ca. 145 x 64 x 52 cm

In early 2008, celebrated German director, performance artist, and filmmaker Christoph Schlingensief learned he had lung cancer. From that point until his passing a little over two years later, the themes of his work wrestled with the omnipresence of death, the demons afflicting human existence, mortality, chaos, spiritual desires, origin, and salvation. Drawing on the work of those he deeply admired – among them Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, Dieter Roth, Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler, and Luis Buñuel – Schlingensief’s oeuvre is complex, radical, and raw. It is barely definable, yet an encounter rouses viewers to the truths and deceptions locked away deep within their own psyche. 

Cello TV was first recorded as a performance and projected on a screen at Christoph Schlingensief’s 2008 Fluxus-Oratoria Eine Kirche der Angst vor dem Fremden in mir (A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within) and the object itself became a part of the stage set and was placed among the audience. Here, Schlingensief draws on the 1971 collaboration between artist Nam June Paik and cellist Charlotte Moorman – also titled Cello TV – who sought to use art to humanize technology. In both Paik’s and Schlingensief’s versions, three televisions have been strung with strings and are played as cellos. Paik’s version shows a live video feed of the performance, a collage of other cellists, and an intercepted broadcast feed. In Schlingensief’s Cello TV the artist plays videos that are irreverently farcical – the crucifixion of Christ by dwarves and disabled persons – and intensely private – a whimpering Schlingensief imploring “Don’t touch anymore,” leaving audiences both deeply moved and profoundly unsettled. – Alicia Reuter

*1960 in Oberhausen, Germany | † 2010 in Berlin, Germany