Ulrike Ottinger began experimenting with collage, performance, and photography in the 1960s before turning primarily to film toward the end of the decade. Since then she has produced eighteen cinematic works and countless photographs. Consistently playing with conventions of modernism and the classical avant-garde, she nurtures traces of the familiar and the unfamiliar, the real and the fantastic, allowing each to seamlessly intermingle with the others.
Many of Ottinger’s films explore issues of metamorphosis and inclusion. In Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press (1984) protagonist Dr. Frau Mabuse uses the power of prohibition to make and break the character of Dorian Gray, who ultimately undergoes a transformation from Bauhaus-dandy to evil tycoon. Ottinger complicates such familiar themes by reversing dominant gender roles and manipulating key transformative moments.
Ottinger has increasingly turned toward cultural studies, employing more documentary strategies in her photographs and films. In the film Exile Shanghai (1997) Ottinger documents the stories of six German, Austrian, and Russian Jews whose lives intersect when they flee to Shanghai. Employing interviews, narrative, photographs, and other documentation, the film capitalizes on the tension between art and ethnography.
Ulrike Ottinger was born in Konstanz, Germany in 1942. She has had solo exhibitions at such venues as National Museum Center of Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2004); Witte de With, Bild-Archive, Rotterdam, Holland (2004); The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, IL (2003); and Goethe Institut, Barcelona, Spain (2002). Group exhibitions include Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany (2002); Sessions, Bild-Archive, Museum of Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (2001); and 39th Venice Biennale, Italy (1980).