Ulrike Rosenbach, Salto Mortale I, 1977-78
Ulrike Rosenbach
Salto Mortale I

Ulrike Rosenbach (* 1943, Germany), one of the first and most influential German video and performance artists, never understood video as merely a tool for documentation. Instead, she used it as an experimental and artistic medium. Rosenbach studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts from 1964 to 1970 before creating her first video works in 1971. She taught feminist and media art in California and founded the School for Creative Feminism in Cologne, after her return to Germany. Already in 1972 she began introducing videotapes as “documents of an inner life” with herself as the object and focus of her actions. In her so-called video live actions, she uncovers the structures of female identity while developing strategies for self-determination. She deconstructs femininity as a ”state of image-being” by drawing on traditional imagery of women from the context of visual arts, the media, advertising and cinema. Her sites of action are often marked with materials charged with ritual and symbolism.

In Salto Mortale I, a piece performed live in Bremen, two photographs of women hang from the ceiling amid portraits of women from different social standings. One of the photographs is of Madonna in the Rose Bower, a medieval painting, while the other is of the well-known female Palestinian freedom fighter, Leila Khaled. On the floor is a circle of salt, divided by a reflecting foil, over which the artist swings in a trapeze, pointing her video camera upward toward the photographs. For 30 min, the artist swings upside down, her long black skirt slowly covering her face, while she films the images of the opposing women, blurring into one, and her own face, all the while speaking the words “Frau…sein’’ (To be…a woman). As in other works, Ulrike Rosenbach relies here on a “mythical feminist standpoint” (Lucy Lippard) to explore the changing roles of women throughout history. By blurring past and present, enhanced by the swinging movement, she shows the groundlessness of women, the “gruelling dance” (Marlite Habersma) and the effort of breaking the age-old roles (in an act of art).

Courtesy Ulrike Rosenbach

Document media
3 documentation color photos, video: colour, sound, 20:00 min

Issue date
1977-78

To be seen in
Centro Cultural Montehermoso, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, 7 October 2011 – 15 January 2012

Relations
Andrea Saemann (SAE 1)

Tags
de/construct identities, femininity, his/herstory, in/visibility, stereotypes