Ulrike Ottinger

Ulrike Ottinger, MADAME X: AN ABSOLUTE RULER, Film, 131 minutes16 mm, colour, 1977

Ulrike Ottinger, *1942 in Konstanz, Germany

Lives and works in Berlin. Ottinger developed an expressive bizarre-surrealistic film style, which is characterized by the extensive renunciation of linear storylines. Artfully and aesthetically convincing, she stages moving magical (film) images. The unconventional and original imagination of Ottingers always creates surprising, expressive and extravagant (narrative) forms with magnetizing figures and pictures in strong colors of technical brilliance. Since childhood, Ottinger has been fascinated by non-European societies. In her documentary and feature films, Mongolian and Japanese formal language finds recognition and expression. Ottinger made impressive documentary films about Asian cultures, including the four and a half hour film, China. The Arts – Everyday Life ‚and the eight and a half hour production ‚Taiga‘.

On the work in the exhibition:

„Ulrike Ottinger has a larger body of work than almost any other lesbian filmmaker, and her rarely seen first feature contains most of the elements that make her work so unique and ahead of its time. In this extravagantly aestheticized, postmodern pirate film she appropriates the male genre for feminist allegory. Madame X — the cruel, uncrowned ruler of the China seas — promises „gold, love, and adventure“ to all women who’ll leave their humdrum lives behind. Gathered aboard her ship, Orlando, are a range of types: a frumpy housewife, a glamorous diva, a psychologist, a very German outdoorswoman, a bush pilot, an artist (played by Yvonne Rainer), and a „native“ beauty. Their utopia devolves into betrayal and self-destruction—leading to eventual transformation—as the power games of the outside world are ritualized among the women. Tabea Blumenschein, who designed the film’s outrageous costumes, appears in a dual role as the pirate queen and the ship’s lovely, leather clad figurehead. Refusing conventional storytelling and realism for a rich, non-synchronous soundtrack, the film invites its audience along for an unprecedented journey that celebrates the marginal.“ — Patricia White, Swarthmore College

Prizes and Scholarships:

In 1980 she received the 2nd Audience Award of the Sceaux Film Festival for, Portrait of a Drinker. Aller – Jamais Retour ‚and in 1983 the 2nd Audience Award at the Sceaux Film Festival for‘ Freak Orlando ‚, followed in 1984 by the Special Prize of the Jury of the Florence Film Festival for artistic, formal and content unit of the complete work. In 1986 she was awarded the prize of German film criticism for, China. The Arts – Everyday Life ‚and in 1987 awarded the Short Film Award of the HDF Hauptverbandes Deutsches Filmtheater. In 1989, she received the Gold Film Clip (Visual Design) for „Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia“ and the Audience Award Montréal. In 2006 she won the Konstanzer Kunstpreis and in 2007 the German Film Critics Award in the Documentation category for ‚Prater‘. In 2010 she was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit of Germany, in 2011 the Hannah Höch Prize and in 2012 the Special Teddy.