David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of film stills by the German independent avant-garde filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger. This exhibition is held in conjunction with a series of screenings of Ottinger's films at The Museum of Modern Art from June 9-15, (with the collaboration of Women Make Movies who are the official North American distributors), as well as an exhibition of film stills from Ottinger's epic 8- hour ethno-documentary Taiga, on view at the Goethe Institute, June 12-July 21.
Ottinger, who for nearly thirty years has been an important figure in the counter-cultural Berlin underground scene, is frequently identified with the New German Cinema movement of the 60s and 70s, typified by the work of Fassbinder and Herzog. Yet her work remains stubbornly idiosyncratic and independent, sharing none of that movement's preoccupation with gritty realism, Freudian character psychology, or (in Ottinger's view) a rather humorless dread of both sex and women. From her earliest experimental work onwards, Ottinger's films have gone against the grain of such prevailing avant-garde tendencies, characterized instead by a fantastic visual style, with its campy, over-the-top imagery, a disregard for traditional linear narrative, and by complex theatrical meditations on ideas of gender, sexual identity, and power. In a world of shrinking distances and ever-expanding cultural homogenization, Ottinger's films revel in the idea of difference, constantly proposing a new understanding of identity as mutable and in continual flux. Intrinsic to Ottinger's project as a maker of films is a recognition of the "other," not only within the context of the foreignness of another culture, or within a marginalized social subculture, but also within oneself. Ritualizing this desire for the alien, Ottinger's films make frequent use of the visual syntax and inner dream logic of fairy tales in order to frame her examinations of personal and social "otherness."