– Autumn/Winter 2007

Ulrike Ottinger's Chronicle of Time

Eva Meyer

Misunderstandings are part of communication, yet when they occur between cultures, differences are made comprehensible. What is important in this process is not simply the recognition of difference, for this would merely confirm a cliché. Ulrike Ottinger sympathises with all things foreign because they take her beyond the boundaries of recognition this makes her films the medium of a cognition that involves imagination and registration, critique and concern. Whether she makes fiction films or documentaries or, from time to time, shifts them to the acoustic field of an audio montage she steadily works on pushing her images beyond clichés, on freeing them. She accumulates visual and acoustic impressions that she frames and reframes. She keeps contradictions open by living them time until they force us to change our viewing and listening habits.

In Ottinger's work, story is no longer understood as a sequence of actions. It is understood spatially instead of temporally, as a set of differences and resonances whose heterogeneous association lies in the moment of interruption that allows us to alternate between stories and to fall into time. We are put into the flow of things, no longer connected via responses, and so we discover the power of images and sounds a power they possess exactly because they no longer depict things but recreate them. This involves a form of touching that is a part of seeing and hearing, so much so that it changes with the time it takes to see and hear. Sequences meet in an extraordinary manner in the montage. For example, in Ottinger's Exile Shanghai (1997) a place is recorded on a map, but evolves over time.

You hear something that

  1. Versatzamt means pawn shop, though in this context it also suggests an office of displacement.