This series is dedicated to the work of artist, photographer and director Ulrike Ottinger (Konstanz, 1942), one of the most emblematic figures of the New German Cinema, paradoxically overlooked by official histories. Ottinger began working in film in the 1960s (during which time she studied photography, history and ethnology at the side of teachers including John Friedlaender, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Pierre Bourdieu), although she did not make her first film as a director until 1972, when she directed Laocoon & Sons with Tabea Blumenschein (Konstanz, 1952). The film premiered at the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin in 1973. With Madame X - Eine absolute Herrscherin (1977), a film about a female pirate, Ottinger revealed her interest in questions of gender, although in the 1980s she distanced herself from traditional feminist paradigms to interrogate the existence of a ‘female’ aesthetic, an alternative way of seeing the world, and begin to explore new discourses about identity. Her Berlin Trilogy marked a critical moment in this turn, since in it she tackled questions like androgyny and dandyism using a somewhat queer sensibility. From this point of view, Ottinger’s work has the special distinction of re-appropriating the aesthetics of narcissism from a feminist discourse, proposing a renegotiation of subjectivity and going beyond the more traditional debates in feminist theory on gender and sexuality.
Divided into four sections (Trilogy; Fiction: Ethnographic and Adventure Films; Underground, Fluxus and Symbolism; Documents of Today), this retrospective includes thirteen films spanning three decades of Ottinger’s career, from her first solo feature-length film Madame X - Eine absolute Herrscherin, an extravagant lesbian science fiction adventure, to her latest work Zwölf Stühle (2004), which, according to American critic Laurence A. Rickels “summarises, cites, revises and builds on her earlier film work”. Also included is Taiga (1991-1992), an 8½-hour saga that documents a trip among the nomads in northern Mongolia, a film that has become a fundamental reference point for the cultural use of fantasy, since ‘real life’ is constantly pervaded by reverie.