Ulrike Ottinger

ArtPace, San Antonio/Texas: July 8 – September 12, 2004

Solo exhibition at ArtPace, San Antonio/Texas


The exhibition FACES, FOUND OBJECTS, AND ROUGH RIDERS was the result of  three month period as an artist in residence at the institution Art Pace in San Antonio. "I had brought with me Aby Warburg´s text on the snake ritual and a bundle of about a hundred postcards with pictures of Pueblo Indians from the 1920s and 1930s. I then began to compare the patterns of the dresses, hats and crockery on the postcards with those that I saw among the Mexicans. The similarity of the symbols and patterns was remarkable. I attended their festivals and charreadas, which might seem akin to rodeos, but are in fact a ritual theatre in which the cowboy quotidian life is performed in stations in a stylised manner. It is an altogether perilous ritual where fear is banished and skill triumphs, and serves at the same time as an initiation rite for young girls and boys. My informants came from the museum´s Mexican cleaning crew. They not only kept me informed, but accompanied me to the many activities of their community."* The exhibition documents Ottinger´s encounter with Mexicans and their culture.

* "Ich reise, um zu verstehen. Ulrike Ottinger im Gespräch mit Valerie Smith", in: Ulrike Ottinger. Floating Food, hg. von / ed. by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Köln / Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König 2011, S. / p. 134

"To gather material for Faces, Found Objects, and Rough Riders, Ulrike Ottinger attended festivals, processions, and cultural events in and around San Antonio, taking over 800 photographs along the way. The installation presents photographic portraits and ephemera from the area to investigate the foundation and practices of local cultures.

Presiding over the gallery is a monumental black and white photograph from a charreada, a Mexican rodeo. Ottinger captures the cowboy and his airborne lasso in a familiar image of the west. Nine smaller photographs flank the central mural and include staged and candid portraits, as well as a lone image of a plush red heart with angelic wings.

Ottinger imports the motif of this local “relic” into the other objects in the gallery by including hearts and feather crowns on photographs, frames, and even a longhorn steer. These shrine-like areas of found and altered objects—primarily symbolic tokens from Native American and Mexican cultures—unify the project and cast doubt on the assumed authenticity of the surrounding photographs. On display is Ottinger’s sketchbook for the project—a kind of storyboard that juxtaposes drawings with pictures, notes, and ethnographic postcards from the 1930s and 1940s.

The scrapbook-like form of Faces, Found Objects, and Rough Riders is appropriate. The installation is in large part an account of Ottinger’s exploration of San Antonio, a place rich with the creolization of German, Spanish, and Native American cultures. The project reveals not only how the medium of photography can simultaneously document and manipulate its subjects, but also the ways in which cultures change, influence, and borrow elements from one other. Through compelling juxtapositions, this work, like Ottinger’s others, exposes the complexities in notions of cultural difference."

Curator: Ute Meta Bauer