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Ulrike Rosenbach:"Meine Macht ist meine Ohnmacht" (1978 / 2008) in the exhibition.
Photograph: Andreas Süß

Ulrike Rosenbach (Germany *1943)

Ulrike Rosenbach is a pioneer and an important figure of video and performance art in Germany. After studying at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts from 1964 to 1970, Ulrike Rosenbach created her first video works in 1971, taught feminist art and media art in California and, after her return to Germany, founded the 'School for Creative Feminism' in Cologne. She uses video as not just an instrument of documentation but works with this medium in experimental and artistic ways. She began to use video to create “documents of her inner life” as early as 1972. She herself is the point of departure and the subject of her performances. In her so-called video live actions, she exposes patterns of female identity construction and develops strategies of self-determination. She deconstructs woman’s “image status” in traditional depictions of women in art, the media, commercial ads and film, marking the space of performance with materials which take on ritualistic associations and symbolic meanings.

Her works were shown at documenta 6 and 8. From 1989 - 2007, she was Professor of New Media Art at the Saarbrücken Academy of Fine Arts. In Meine Macht ist meine Ohnmacht (1978), a live performance in the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Rosenbach lies motionless for three hours in a large net attached to the ceiling. A circular mirror is installed above her, and below her is a bed of salt on which we can see her shadow. The windows are covered with photo negatives of women from various cultural contexts. A video camera films the artist’s shadow, which is displayed as a negative image on a monitor across which a text by Herbert Marcuse occasionally appears. Rosenbach’s breathing can be heard through the loudspeakers, and she says the word “Frau”. After three hours, Rosenbach cuts the net and falls to the floor.

In the performance "Einwicklung mit Julia", (1972) the artist ties herself with strips of gauze to her daughter, who is sitting in front of her.

The performance video "Sorry Mister" (1974) shows Ulrike Rosenbach lightly dressed and slapping the insides of her thighs with her hands to the rhythm of Brends Lee's music. Over time, bruises develop on her thighs - an image that reveals the masochistic role women often take upon themselves.

"Tanz für eine Frau' (1975) counters the perspective of "Sorry Mister". It shows a dancer spinning to a waltz, affirming the individuality of the single woman against the partnership hinted at in the waltz's title.

In "Glauben Sie nicht, dass ich eine Amazone bin" (1975) the artist shoots arrows from a bow at a picture of the Holy Virgin. The image of the Virgin and that of the artist are superimposed on each other, she thus also shoots at herself. In this work, Rosenbach contrasts two stereotypical images of femininity, that of the Amazon and that of the Holy Virgin, refusing to identify with either.

rosenbach - amazone

Ulrike Rosenbach:"Glauben Sie nicht,..." (1975). image copyright Ulrike Rosenbach, VG-Bild-Kunst, Bonn


In the Exhibition

"Meine Macht ist meine Ohnmacht", 1978 / 2008, Installation based on a Performance in the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, 1978.

In the Video Archive:

"Einwicklung mit Julia", 1972, 5:00min
"Sorry Mister", 1974, 11:42min.
"Tanz für ein Frau", 1975, 10:00min.
"Glauben Sie nicht, dass ich eine Amazone bin", 1975, 10:45min.

In the Conference Programme:

"Frauenkultur – Kontaktversuch", Lecture.


Ulrike Rosenbach Website