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Ulrike Ottinger Go Always Return In Go Never Return (Bildnis einer Trinkerin, 1979), the first film of the Berlin trilogy by German filmmaker, artist and photographer Ulrike Ottinger (b. 1942), Tabea Blumenschein plays the role of a mute woman who dresses up extravagantly every day simply in order to drinkto the point of collapse. This fascinating headlong rushthrough the most banal and random places of the west German capital takes the form of aconstantderiveor “drift”,whose precise destination seems to offer little reward with regards to the rate of consumption ofalcoholic beverages. The protagonist’s path, as she sits wide-eyed in the back of a taxi, or walksclumsily on her high heels, appears to be one of absolute freedom. Her manner of letting loose is biting, complete, and in perfect contempt ofthe social standards, as a red undanttrio takes the responsibility of reminding usthroughout the film. The Parisian Dérive We know that urban vagrancy originates with the Baudelarian figure of the flaneurwho was born with the modern city. After the experience of the Dadaists, Surrealists and Lettrists, the Situationists systematized the concept ofthe dérive or “drift”as “a mode of experimental behaviorlinked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapidpassage through variedambiances.” Ulrike Ottinger places herlast film Paris Caligrammes (2019) in this long literary and artistic tradition (Walter Benjamin isnever far away). Remarkably sequenced, the winding narration mixes periods and places: Paris today and yesterday, Paris plural and singular. In its autobiographical nature, the story is first and foremost that of artistic encounters and cultural discoveries made by its author in the city of lights. From herarrival in Paris in 1962atthe age ofjust 20 years old, to her return to West Germany in 1969, Ulrike Ottinger lived seven founding years, that would deeply inform herpractice. The doorway to memories opens at the rue du Dragon, in the 6th arrondissement,at the doorstep of the Calligrammes bookshop. Run by the scholarlyname of Fritz Picard, the boutique’s well-stocked shelves offered a privileged destination to amateurs of German literature. The path woven of images, archives and contemporary shots of Paris sometimes appears to take on the postcard allure of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés life: the bustle of cafés and clubs, the constant flow of visitors into the Cinémathèque française at Chaillot, which sets off Ottinger’s interest in cinema, the classes taught by Bourdieu, Lévi-Strauss and Althusser at the Sorbonne, the empty rooms of the Gustave Moreau Museum and the Louvre’s treasures. Yet ambivalence reigns, intheimage of this time of contradictions. After World War II, optimism and progress seem to have no limits. The technical innovations revolutionize domestic interiors and the limits of the known world. Consumption is encouraged by happy, colorful ads. Yet, the world is agitated by conflicts linked to de-colonization. The Evian Agreements ending the Algerian War are signed the year of Ottinger’s arrival in France. She sees in the remains of the Garden of Tropical Agriculture’s pavilions, at an auction at the Hôtel Drouot or in the hair salons of the Faubourg Saint-Denis so many accounts of French colonial history. Between conservatism and libertarian aspirations, thisdecade leads to the political strife of May 1968: Ulrike Ottinger leaves Paris just a few months later. From artist to filmmaker, and back again1Internationale Situationnisten°1, 1958

Arriving in Paris as a young artist (she studied painting at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts), Ulrike Ottinger leaves the academy as a future filmmaker. She first passes through printmaking,with the aquatints of symbolic imagery of the Israël series that she creates in the studio of Johnny Friedlaender and shows at Fritz Picard’s bookshop, leading to her first rave reviews. She then adopts a pictorial practice, employing the colored language of narrative figuration, the French equivalent of American pop art. She makes paintings on different panels that, once assembled, resemble the classical form of an altarpiece. Their narration sometimes resembles the organization of comic strips, beginning with her dreamlike 1966 painting Bande dessinée (“Comic Strip”). The empty word bubbles are a recurring theme in her work, like in the 1967 screen print series Journée d’un GI (“A Day in the Life of a GI”), where the squares alternate between different moments in the daily life of an American soldier, or in her large-scale painting in the form of a puzzle, Allen Ginsberg(1965), in which the Beat poet is dressed up as Uncle Sam.After a complete film career honored by many awards, for the last decade Ulrike Ottinger has been returning to the artworks of her youth. Drawing on the long flânerieof Paris Caligrammes, which navigates through different registers of images, between reminiscence of the past and visions of the present, the artist thas initiated a dialogue with her own pictorial creations, which she interprets ontextile supports. The works are presented herefor their French premiere

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