16.05.2024 - 18.05.2024 / Dvorana Gorgona

Cosmos Ottinger is the title of the programme by which the Art Pavilion in Zagreb, in collaboration with the Subversive Film Festival and the Museum of Contemporary Art, presents the film director and multimedia artist Ulrike Ottinger as part of the series Landscapes of Simultaneous Times: On Memory Practices in Contemporary Art. On the occasion of her guest appearance in Zagreb, the Subversive Film Festival will honour her with the lifetime achievement award The Wild Dreamer.

Ulrike Ottinger was born in 1942 in the southern German city of Constance. After studying painting at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich, she lived in Paris from 1962 to 1969, working as an independent artist, studying the avant-garde art, and attending lectures by Claude Lévi-Strauss and Louis Althusser at the Collège de France. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Ottinger re-semanticized the heritage of historical avant-gardes, particularly Dadaism, articulating a distinctive, transgressive artistic language that anticipated and inaugurated many of today’s radical critical art practices. Her exploration of the film medium stemmed from her interest in performance, theatrics, photography, and, above all, narratology and iconology. This is evident from her first film, Laocoon & Sons: The Story of the Transformation of Esmeralda del Rio (1972/73), which intoned themes and artistic procedures that would pervade Ottinger’s unique filmography over the following five decades. Her early films were pioneering achievements in the feminist deconstruction of patriarchal structural violence and cultural misogyny, resistance against normative heterosexism, and the inauguration of queer aesthetics. In her films from the Berlin TrilogyTicket of No Return (1979), Freak Orlando (1981), and Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press (1984) – Ulrike Ottinger masterfully delineated the historical transversals that connect Christianity, colonialism, and fascism, insisting on the visibility of the impact of consumerism and spectacle inherent to capitalism, in the genesis of totalitarianism. Ulrike Ottinger writes screenplays, directs, and shoots all her films. In an astonishing performing procedure grounded in the principles of dis-identification and de-naturalization characteristic of feminist art practices, she insists on artificiality and extreme grotesqueness. Thereby, she uses her own paintings and hybrid assemblies of objects as elements of scenography and costume design. To date, Ulrike Ottinger has made twenty-seven films. Among them, there are “unusual documentaries” of extremely long duration, shot in Southeast Europe, Mongolia, and the Far East, exploring what she describes as epic time and asking: What happens when reality meets imagination? These films, arising from her fascination with nomadic cultures and her ethnological interests, confront viewers with questions about cultural understanding and misunderstanding. Ulrike Ottinger has received numerous prestigious awards and distinctions for her work, including the Berlinale Camera (2020) for her unique contribution to filmmaking. Additionally, she has directed several theatre and opera performances. Her films, photographic works, paintings-objects, and spatial installations have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Documenta in Kassel, or Berlin Biennale, and in numerous solo exhibitions, including those at Witte de With – Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, Museo Nacional Reina Sofia in Madrid, Kunst-Werke in Berlin, David Zwirner Gallery in New York, Hunterian Gallery in Glasgow, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore, Berkeley Art Museum, and Staatliche Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden.

The Cosmos Ottinger programme will feature six films by Ulrike Ottinger.

A conversation with Ulrike Ottinger will be conducted by Prof. Dr. Leonida Kovač, author of the Landscapes of Simultaneous Times series.

Prof. Dr. Katharina Sykora will deliver a lecture titled The Ways of Showing in Ulrike Ottinger’s Films. Dr. Sykora is a professor emerita in the history of art and film. She has authored numerous scholarly articles on Ulrike Ottinger’s work and is the author and editor of the book Zwischenwelten: Ulrike Ottinger’s Filme im Spiegel der transatlantischen Kritik (Göttingen, 2022).

Lecture summary:

In Ulrike Ottinger’s films, there are many types of visual showdowns. They confront us with cultural, historical and gender differences. Her films have a special way of showing things demonstratively, like with the gesture of the index finger. And they openly display their way of showing. That draws the viewers’ attention to her exuberant figures, multi-layered spaces, and playful narration, while also giving us the pleasure of seeing what these are made of. The lecture explores the ways in which Ulrike Ottinger’s films make us perceive worlds and people differently, and the way she makes us see how they become images.


Thursday, May 16th
Laocoon & Sons
The Story of the Transformation of Esmeralda del Rio,1972/73
16 mm; b/w; 50 minutes

(Laokoon & Söhne
Die Verwandlungsgeschichte der Esmeralda del Rio, 1972/73)

Freak Orlando, 1981
35 mm; color; 126 minutes

Conversation with Ulrike Ottinger
(conducted by Leonida Kovač)

Friday, May 17th
Madame X
An Absolute Ruler, 1977
16 mm; color; 141 minute

(Madame X
Eine absolute Herrscherin, 1977)

Katharina Sykora
The Ways of Showing in Ulrike Ottinger's Films

Dorian Gray in the Morror of the Yellow Press, 1984
35 mm; color; 150 minutes
(Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse, 1984)

Saturday, May 18th
Ticket of No Return, 1979
35 mm; color; 107 minutes

(Bildnis einer Trinkerin, 1979)

Under Snow, 2011
35 mm; color, Dolby SR; 103 minutes

(Unter Schnee, 2011)

Additional information about the films can be found on Ulrike Ottinger’s web page and on the Subversive Festival web page