Performing their daily rituals as if under a spell, they are helpless in the face of impending doom. Not worrying, loving the bomb. They’re shooting at everyone
Working as a painter in 1960s Paris, Ottinger’s early practice was influenced by the nouvelle figuration, the Paris version of Pop art. Drawing inspiration from scenes of everyday life, comics, photography and advertising, the style incorporated numerous social layers and references to political occurrences. Ottinger’s cheerful paintings and serigraphs stand closely to the aesthetics of the movement, as they tell tales that develop through time in form of sequences and polyptychs. The eternally dynamic distinction between life and the form it finds in art is mirrored in the tension between image and sequence, between the individual and society. One’s own bubble bursts and stories only matter if they are shared.
This turbulent time makes its mark in Ottinger’s visual narratives not only in the images of war and its machinery, but also in the smiling faces of her characters as they reveal traces of desperation, tragically aware of their own expendability. And so it goes. As if on an assembly line, daily tasks and struggles are executed in automation, and their repetitiveness mirrors the one of history, a day in a life of a soldier the human condition. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the rocket, as Pynchon said it, same chances of getting hit.
The rituals of everyday life entangle with references to historical personalities and heroes of literature. As common people prepare for their daily battles, it is the symbol of revolution who takes a break. Skeptical toward the instrumentalization of art for political causes, Ottinger opts for ambiguity, and transforms the guerilla fighter into “Le penseur,” dreaming up a revolution. The recognizability of Che Guevara’s image in the context of rebellion is playfully reduced to a resting moment on a recamier, sipping his drink out of a coconut. Not even the famous Beat poet has anything left to say. (No more to say and nothing to weep for, as Allen Ginsberg phrased it in his “Kaddish”).
“Journée d’un G.I.”, is Ulrike Ottinger’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. It comprises her early paintings and photographs. The artist’s polyptychs reveal an early passion for storytelling that will eventually find its fulfillment in the medium of film. During the weekend 20. – 22.8., the gallery’s Beletage will be transformed into a temporary cinema, screening Ottinger’s cult Berlin Trilogy, composed of “Ticket of No Return” (1979), “Freak Orlando” (1981) and “Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press” (1984), as well as her recent visual autobiography, a collection of memories of her decade in Paris, the documentary “Paris Calligrammes” (2020).