The tendency to keep one’s own illness secret, as if it were something scandalous, remains quite common – particularly in relation to cancer – although less so than at the time of Susan Sontag’s assessment of the disease. Schlingensief, who has always treated the private realm as an object of artistic inquiry, again chose to go public:
I can of course remain silent about my illness, my fear of death, but I don’t want to. I want to talk about sickness, dying and death. To talk against this culture of ostracism that bans the ill from speaking. I am moulding a social sculpture from my illness. And I am working on an extended concept of illness. It isn’t about being a delegate for the suffering: it is simply about [generating] visibility.
Schlingensief has discussed his ordeal in three theatre pieces, the book version of his dictaphone diary entries, and in numerous interviews (some on lightweight television talk shows), and, in doing so, he has successfully retained a sense of control over its reception (after initially forbidding his lawyers to report in any way on his illness). If, at first, the tape recordings had a primarily therapeutic function, the theatre performances and the diary that appeared in early 2009 are not simply gushing confessions, but clearly formed works that are an attempt to stay above water in the face of an illness that Schlingensief – along with so many others – experienced as a fundamental affront: “I’m so insulted, so insulted and hurt by this thing. At forty-seven. It really is an unbelievable insult!”
Florian Malzacher: Citizen of the Other Place: A Trilogy of Fear and Hope, in Forrest, T., and Scheer, A. T., 2011. Christoph Schlingensief: Art Without Borders. Bristol: Intellect; p.190.