Ulrike Ottinger, Bild Archive

The exhibition Bild Archive in Witte de With is a retrospective of Ulrike Ottinger’s photography and highlights its relationship with three of her films: Superbia 'The Pride (1986), Usinimage (1987) and the more recent Southeast Passage (2002). (Website sources: and

Ulrike Ottinger came to filmmaking in the early seventies via a career in the visual arts. But she took her first photograph at the age of nine, on a canal boat in Amsterdam (two Indian gentlemen, one in a trench coat, the other one wearing a turban with a well-tailored suit, smile for the camera). Afterwards would come thousands of images (photographs of course, but also collections of postcards, cut-outs, illustrations and various iconographic documents), constituting the open archive of a life and an oeuvre based on a principle of the “collage” of images and events. Each image “refers to something beyond itself: to the reality that precedes it; to countless images from the repositories of the arts, of everyday culture and of myth; and to the visual cosmos of her own increasingly dense oeuvre. These photographs are encounters between things found and things invented. They are arenas in which reality and fiction, past and future, wish and fulfillment, transform each other”.(1)

The exhibition at Witte de With invites you on an accompanied stroll among a selection of images introducing the complex relations that the work of Ulrike Ottinger maintains with the world, with history and culture. A long, beautiful voyage, at once grave and enchanted, which from nearest to furthest, from the urban landscapes of Berlin to the steppes of Mongolia, from yesterday’s tales to today’s decors, has nothing exotic or egotist about it. Rather it involves a concern for the other and an “aesthetics of diversity”, (2) worthy of another age.

Catherine David

(1) Katharina Sykora, Stills and Sessions, in Ulrike Ottinger (Berlin: Contemporary Fine Arts, 2001).
(2) Victor Segalen, Essay on Exoticism: An Aesthetics of Diversity, transl. Yaël Rachel Schlick (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).