From Information to Experience: Christoph Schlingensief's Quiz 3000
When German artist Christoph Schlingensief died in 2010 he had amassed an impressive body of work spanning a diverse range of fields, including film, television, theatre, art, radio, activism, and opera. Although he gained a certain notoriety for his early film and performance work, it was through his politically engaged re-enactment of a series of reality television programs that his public profile in Germany was cemented. This article focuses on the pilot episode of Quiz 3000 that was staged at the Volksbühne in 2002 and that was modelled closely on the popular reality format Who Wants to be a Millionaire? As Schlingensief has made clear in an interview with Alexander Kluge, his interest in re-enactment as a critical strategy is not driven by a desire for total verisimilitude, but by the inconsistencies that are generated in the re-enactment process that serve as catalysts for reflection and debate. In Quiz 3000 it is the nature of the questions posed to the contestants (such as: 'The rape of members of which minority group is, according to the German criminal code, less heavily penalized?' and 'How many conscientious objectors from Kurdistan have, since 2001, been tortured to death in Turkey after being deported by Germany?') that generates the inconsistency in question. Drawing on Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno's writings on information and experience, I argue that Quiz 3000 transforms the information-driven focus of television quiz shows into a source of experience for viewers and contestants alike by encouraging them to reflect on political issues and debates in an autonomous, affective, and meaningful way.
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