vonFridey Mickel 09.05.2016

Context is Half the Work

Seeing comes before words, and culture can be defined at any given moment.

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Tonight, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin is hosting an event by artist Philip Kojo Metz in cooperation with Christoph Schlingensief’s Operndorf Afrika, located in Burkina Faso. The event invite sounded pretty interesting. The idea is to broadcast tonight’s Germany vs. France game , taking play in Senegal, while holding a podium discussion simultaneously with a mixture of journalists noted on sport, politics, and art, alongside the artist and Aino Laberenz, the director of the Operndorf and Schlingensief’s wife. I liked the idea of using soccer as a way to start a discussion and after a few sleepy years the Operndorf has started to emerge again, more and more, especially in Berlin (e.g. at the ABC art fair in Berlin last fall). I got the chance to ask Aino Laberenz a few questions about how the Operndorf is growing into it’s own entity, despite having such a famous father; she explained how it’s grown and how tonight’s event will really highlight this….


Aino Laberenz (c) Jim Rakete
Aino Laberenz. Photo by Jim Rakete


I’m American, but I’ve been in Berlin for years. I don’t have this pop culture connection w Christoph Slingensief that a lot of Germans do, but I have always somehow had him on my radar. Still, I feel that after his passing and the Venice Biennale, things were a bit quieter for a bit, until the first retrospective at KW in 2013/14. After that, it feels like everything Legacy Slingensief is now taking on a second wind somehow. Any thoughts on this?

Christoph was an artist who went into his creation time through many stages and there are still a few artists, whose works are given so awarely to their audience. So it actually lies on the viewer to explore Christoph’s work, to preserve it and to a certain extent update it.

The Venice Biennale was a great high. Since Christoph is now no longer there, people now look at his work with a certain tranquility and distance. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the perspective of the visual arts is thereby increasingly relevant.


kl-Foto Kéré Architecture
Operndorf Afrika.


How much is the Operndorf a Schlingensief Legacy thing, and how much of it is becoming it’s own entity? How has the project been growing up?

All works by Christoph today are of course part of what one would call and his ‘Estate’. The Operndorf is much more than that. Christopher’s desire was that the project would develop its own momentum and that the Operndorf would become independent as a social sculpture, charged with life and with everyday. The project would have perhaps been totally different with him (still in it). Thanks to the people there, it has now gone on, in its own way.




Does the Operndorf fit into Contemporary Art? And if so, in what way? (I’ve always felt it was something to push the people within it– how does it work with outside artists in a) Africa and b) the western art world?

As part of Contemporary Art, the Operndorf is only insufficiently located. Basically, the Operndorf’s (location) creates a timelessness. It’s part of Art because Christoph initiated it as such. But it’s equally invested that it should grow out of the art to become a slice of life. The Operndorf Team first had to create a structure for this.

After the Entry of everyday life into the Operadorf with a school, a hospital ward, and housing, we now come more and more to the point to let various artists move into this village life. This includes residencies in the village just as this event here in Berlin, which also represents the Operndorf.


Children at Christoph Schlingensief’s Opera Village in Burkina Faso. Photo: Lennart Laberenz.


This event at the HKW—on paper– could seem almost like a Schlingensief skit, mostly because it’s so absolutely mundane that it becomes absurd, highlighting that it’s magical. How should this event be seen and taken? What made you want to do this? How did the cooperation with artist Philip Kojo Metz happen?

Primarily, the event has nothing directly to do with Schlingensief. Philip came to us with a request and we consented.

We felt we could incorporate this aspect to understand ourself as a transnational art project, acting as a platform – in collaboration with an artist– not only in Burkina but here in Berlin. We wanted to open up the possibility for discussion. With Philip’s project, there were different aspects that the Operndorf Team found interesting and tracks come together. With this piece of concrete work from Philip, we quickly saw that many factors and aspects not only overlapped, but are also interesting for us. With the joint event at HKW, we can go one step further in tackling our relevant aspects discursively.


Philip Metz, LMS
artist Philip Kojo Metz, 2014. Photo Louisa Summer


Mimicry Games. Photo: Philip Kojo Metz


A businessman friend is always telling me, one reason he enjoys following Soccer is because you can use it to strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone in the world, and there would be something to talk about. It’s really true. What do you actually aim to talk about?

In the context of this event, Soccer is for us more than just a game in Senegal. It is a possibility to open up different connections and to question them: the colonial history, the social and also the real political aspects, the media coverage: Soccer as a physical plane, to be understood as a language and to explore the theme artistically. That’s what we wish to put the focus on for the evening.


hkw_mimicry_games_c_philip_kojo_metz (2)


Dakart just opened in Senegal, and I think Europe forgot about it bc of the art fairs going on here. The Operndorf has been thriving and growing since it opened, even though things were quiet about it for awhile in Europe. Really, how important is European attention to you? How does it affect what you are doing? And what makes the Operndorf relevant?

I personally wouldn’t say that. This is perhaps a typical German or European perspective. This view is also certainly valid but it cannot be reduced to these views—that would be too general. When you look around for example in Berlin, the Berlin Biennale in KW is currently promoting this exchange. I don’t perceive it as a closed system. Of course, it is our concern, to get attention to the African continent in the local press and sustainably strengthen through such cooperation.


Monday, 9 May 2016, 19 h, Entrance Free (limited Seating).


The Mimicry Games

A project by  Philip Kojo Metz in cooperation with Operndorf Afrika

Public-Viewing Soccer Game: Deutschland vs. Frankreich, live from Senegal

w/ Commentary + Discussion from:

Christoph Biermann (Editor of the German Soccer Magazine 11 Freunde), Cathrin Gilbert (Editor of Ressort Politics, Die Zeit), Philip Kojo Metz (Artist), Gernot Rohr (Ex-National Team Soccer Coach of Burkina Faso) and Aino Laberenz (Chief Executive Officer of Operndorf Afrika). Moderation: Holger Liebs (Former Editor and Chief of Monopol Magazine).




Images Courtesy of: Operndorf Afrika + Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.






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