From Bayreuth to Burkina Faso

Christoph Schlingensief’s Opera Village Africa as Postcolonial Gesamtkunstwerk?

Sarah Hegenbart

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Monograph - paperback

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The postcolonial Gesamtkunstwerk: Disrupting the Eurocentric perspective on art history and addressing Germany’s colonial history  

Opera Village Africa, a participatory art experiment by the late German multimedia artist Christoph Schlingensief, serves as a testing ground for a critical interrogation of Richard Wagner’s notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Sarah Hegenbart traces the path from Wagner’s introduction of the Gesamtkunstwerk in Bayreuth to Schlingensief’s attempt to charge the idea of the total artwork with new meaning by transposing it to the West African country Burkina Faso. Schlingensief developed Opera Village in collaboration with the world-renowned architect Francis Kéré. This final project of Schlingensief is inspired by and illuminates the diverse themes that informed his artistic practice, including coming to terms with the German past, anti-Semitism, critical race theory, and questions of postcolonial (self-)criticism.

From Bayreuth to Burkina Faso introduces the notion of the postcolonial Gesamtkunstwerk to disrupt the Eurocentric perspective on art history, exploring how the socio-political force of a postcolonial Gesamtkunstwerk could affect processes of transcultural identity construction. It reveals how Schlingensief translocated the Wagnerian concept to Burkina Faso to address German colonial history and engage with it from the perspective of multidirectional memory cultures.

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).


Opera of Ambiguities 

Chapter One
Egomania – Germany Without Hope? Rectifying the impression that Schlingensief staged a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk at the Venice Biennial 2011 

Chapter Two
From Bayreuth to Burkina Faso: Stripping the Gesamtkunstwerk of its German coordinates 

Chapter Three
The Mission of a Contemporary Parsifal: Redeeming Germany in Burkina Faso 

Chapter Four
Revolving Opera and Psychic Interiors: The Animatograph 

Chapter Five
Readymade and Azione Scenica: Schlingensief’s Expanded Definition of Opera 

Chapter Six
Opera Village as postcolonial Gesamtkunstwerk

The Gesamtkunstwerk: Smashed or revived? 


Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 234 × 156 × 17 mm

294 pages

ISBN: 9789462703582

Publication: November 30, 2022

Languages: English

Stock item number: 151478

Sarah Hegenbart is lecturer in art history at Technical University of Munich and previously acted as a substitute for the professorship of art research with a focus on contemporary arts at the Braunschweig University of Art (HBK Braunschweig). She is a member of 'Die Junge Akademie Mainz' and member of the consortium of the Horizon 2020 research project ‘Art and Research on Transformations of Individuals and Societies’.

This book makes significant strides not only in understanding Schlingensief’s work in Africa but also in addressing the complexities when it comes to German-language theater in the Global South. - Katherine Pollock, German Studies Review, vol. 46 no. 3, 2023, p. 521-523.

The author offers fresh theoretical perspectives on Schlingensief’s work, as when they connect it to concepts such as narcissism or dialogical images. Also the author’s great field research in Burkina Faso and the first-hand interviews conducted there distinguish the book from previous studies.
Ilinca Todorut, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca
This is the first major study of the Opera village. The author has an excellent command not only of the scholarship on Schlingensief but also on Wagner, and all the current discussions on post-colonialism that continue to preoccupy the public sphere. It is an extremely timely contribution to a set of topical and also controversial discussions.
Christopher Balme, LMU Munich