The musician Hanno Leichtmann and filmmaker Carolin Brandl bring the lunatic, hypnotic musical film “African Twin Towers” back to life using as yet unpublished, self-made footage by Christoph Schlingensief.
Christoph Schlingensief’s unfinished film project—the film that never existed — was originally conceived as a feature-length with an unusual cast. Patti Smith, Robert Stadlober, Klaus Beyer and the Fassbinder actress Irm Hermann followed the late theatre, opera, and film director and artist, who heralded failure as opportunity and as an open research project, to the port city of Lüderitz in Namibia’s Township Area 7. After mere days, most people involved had reached their wit’s end.
The film’s plot revolves around descendants of Johann Sebastian Bach who wish to organize Bach festivals in the vestiges of southwest Africa’s former German colonies and to force German culture upon the shanties of Area 7. This process ends up ridden with obstacles and effectively induces the dissolution of the family and its members. From this point on, the film fuses explorations of German megalomania, Richard Wagner, hunger crises on the African continent, colonial history, shamanism, Nordic mythology, and innumerable other themes into a bizarre, surreal cinematic whirlwind in which the director, in the act of directing, himself emerges as a part of the film and all levels blur together. With the ambiguous title “The African Twin Towers”, Schlingensief pointed to the thousands of daily poverty-related deaths in Africa and to hunger as crime against humanity that is denial of assistance. He identified in the hunger crisis an African equivalent to the September 11th attacks on New York’s World Trade Center — an event in whose public shadow exploitative political policies elsewhere became invisible.
As a supplement to the actual film footage, Schlingensief documented the scenes himself with a Minox camera. The intimate close-ups and unique aesthetic exhibited by the the Minox recordings fills in gaps and omissions in the primary material. For “African Twin Towers (re)played”, the filmmaker and video artist Carolin Brandl only uses the Minox footage personally filmed by Schlingensief. In doing so, she reassembles fragments of his surreal and overpowering visual universe.
Sections of the soundtrack, which was recorded in Hanno Leichtmann’s studio by Leichtmann together with Christoph Schlingensief, John Nikenhuis, and Indian musicians, were released in 2010 on the label Dekorder. For “African Twin Towers (re)played”, Leichtmann has composed new material based on the setup and spirit of the original recordings, and interweaves this material with remastered versions of the first soundtrack.
As they have in their earlier work together, Brandl and Leichtmann interact using a kind of ping-pong method in which equivalent image and sound are juxtaposed and interwoven.
Before this, the musician and DIY music ethnographer Laurent Jeanneau presents his project Kink Gong. Since 1999, over many trips to Southeast Asia, Jeanneau has documented the local music traditions of ethnic minorities whose cultures are threatened by modernisation. Jeanneau collects and compiles these unedited recordings into an ever-growing sound and video archive. Excerpts of this archival work are published on the label Sublime Frequencies and his own label. In addition, Jeanneau uses these recordings, which focus mostly on vocal and percussion music, as the starting point for his own emotionally-charged electronic experiments and sound compositions then broadened by other field recordings. In these compositions, the traditions and avant-gardes of a diverse range of places merge into new, contemporary statements.
Parts of the proceeds of this concert will go to Christoph Schlingensief's African Opera Village. "African Twin Towers" is a production of Filmgalerie 451.
We’d like to thank the Filmgalerie 451 and the Schlingensief office as well as Frieder Schlaich and Aino Laberenz for their support in the realisation of “African Twin Towers (re)played”.
Berlin-based artist Carolin Brandl, originally active as a dancer, works today in the film medium. Her films, associated with the documentary genre, are often screened in art contexts.
Hanno Leichtmann is a producer, sound artist and curator. He is a member of the bands Groupshow (with Jan Jelinek and Andrew Pekler) and Denseland (with David Moss and Hannes Strobl); the brains behind the picture/disk label that releases 7” records in groups of 23 handcrafted, transparent editions; and a solo performer both under his own name and under the moniker, STATIC.
The nomadic musician and DIY ethnographer Laurent Jeanneau founded his recording archive and composition project Kink Gong in 1999. He first left his native France in 1991 to travel alone from Kenya to Nigeria. Since then, over many trips to Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, and Thailand), Jeanneau has documented the local music traditions of ethnic minorities whose cultures are threatened by modernisation.
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