Descriptions on twenty videoworks by Ulrike Rosenbach.
From the DVD Edition "The 20 best".
ABOUT THE CHILDREN1997, 5:00 min.
The opening sequence of the video shows the image of a computer moving like a space ship through indefinable darkness. On the screen one can see a child’s hand moving unsteadily. During the following sparse action three pairs of children appear who, in front of changing backgrounds, are swinging to and fro to the rhythm of a menacing sing-song of frightened (intimidated) children’s voices.
One of the background scenes shows a physical particle accelerator, another image lets simulations of molecular patterns of nuclear fission wander like game balls across the clothes of the children. Theme of this media-work is the apocalyptic phenomenon: the artificially determinable, alienated world , the psychological pressure which this situation places on the generation of children of the new millennium.
The work was created in connection with the video installation „In the palace of the newly-born“, 1997.
ABOUT DEATH1996, 14:19 Min
The video piece quotes cultural images as icons of death: skeletons of snakes, hairs, skulls, etc.. In circular movements, reminiscent of the hour-glass or the clock, symbols of time passing, the images move across the screen.
Limited to the colours gold and blue, the video work of art does not confer upon the viewer a terrifying but an appeasing impression of death.
Sounds and images link up to a dense composition. Tension and denseness in the motion of the picture, which for example appear to illustrate the rapid journey of the soul into the universe or the total dissolution and detachment of body and soul. While the visual processing images of energy are formulated, linked together and brought to oscillation, the spoken words form a contrast through the drastic description of the physical decay. (Quotes from the Book of Life and Death, Sögyal Rinpoche)
The artist understands this work as a contribution to the visualisation and formulation of the cultural illustration of images of death and clichés which she revives to the „Image of Death“ a more conciliatory and poetic character which neither disguises nor exaggerates.
SUN GAMES1991, 18:51 Min.
„ Sun Games“ is a video work of a performance of the same name conducted by Ulrike Rosenbach on the occasion of the first solar fair in Germany. The action itself was a typical theatre performance , executed like a mystery play on a large stage: In the semi-darkness of the room attributes of the sun cults of ancient religions light up. In front of a background formed by a large video projection of symbols and images from of old alchemic representations of the sun turning around themselves two female figures move through the stage objects with improvised body gestures. The scenes are captured by a video camera in a documentary way and subsequently – enhanced with additional visual effects - rendered into a video work. The piece is the second in a cycle of topics dealing with the elements earth, water, air and fire.
THE BATTLE OF THE TREES1989, 11:59 Min.
The title THE BATTLE OF THE TREES refers to the Celtic ballad „Cad Goddeu“ (The lucky battle) which Ulrike Rosenbach does not only cite in her video work but uses as a context model:
“ The alder-trees in the first line / they made the commencement. / Willow and quicken tree, / they were slow in their array. / … Holly dark green, / he was very courageous: / defended with spikes on every side, / wounding the hands. / … Great is the gorse in battle / and the ivy in its season /
...the pine tree in the court / strong in battle / ... cruel the elm-tree / turns not aside the measure of a foot / but strikes right in the middle ...“
(the prose of the work)
The artist utilises movie clips and documentary film material to create an intensive interlacing between the war and battle scenes which she links to takes of twigs, leaves and tree crowns. Superimposed is the mysterious image play with takes of the head of a woman sleeping whose eyes are covered by a sky-blue mask and the symbol of the rotating heart, frequently used by Ulrike Rosenbach.
THE WIND OF MY DREAMS1986, 14:41 Min.
The video word THE WIND OF MY DREAMS is and autonomous production which pursues a different intention to the preceding media performance (1982 at Ludwigmuseum Aachen), of which the artist has used significant excerpts. The proceeding of the action can not be reconstructed by viewing the video. To the contrary, the onlooker/viewer is confronted with a bricollage of image sources which, by themselves, lack any dynamic, that is to say narrative, development. Ulrike Rosenbach joins sequences of the performance documentation to excerpts of the video work that she produced for this action: pictures of a gyrating (dancing) camera with a view of the treetops of a forest clearing (???). In the centre of the image a turning heart has been installed by image computer.
By combining the visual impressions with the sound of a female voice singing ethnic Laotian music an energetic video work of great proximity to nature has been created: a visual poem.
THE FEMALE FOOL1985, 17:22 Min.
„The Female Fool“, is a visual composition that combines various documentation takes of a performancework which in German is called „The Eulenspieglerin.“ The work includes a interesting text composition written by the artist, which leads the action like a red thread.
It refers to a well known german mythological figure whose function was to hold a mirror up to the follies at others with his merry pranks as a fool or jester would do.
This work as a performance video-art-work.
Shows the artist as being caught in various different worlds , using various different paths in order to finally realize the meaninglessness of action and determinatiion.
ELEVEN – UNDERSTANDING IS LIKE HEAT1985, 8:52 min.
„Understanding is like heat. When the heat reaches a certain level the water vanishes.” This poetic sentence is topic of the video work which is more of a video poem. Only the sound of the performance „Eleven“ was reused. “Eleven“ is used with reference to the renewal of nature, to the cycle of growth and decay. The “becoming” is visualised by a volcanic eruption and flowing water tied by the movement of hand and head with mysterious signs to invisible forces. The word Eleven changes its meaning during continuous repetitions. The artist conducts a phonetic ??? starting at Eleven as the English number, via the indication of eleve, the Latin word for student, to the association of the sentence “I love Him“.
EVERYBODY LOVES CARMEN1984, 5:58 min.
EVERYBODY LOVES Carmen is a further commentary to the interpretation of the subject of Carmen, this time from the perspective of video art. The old music „Carmen“ by G. Bizet and the new one of the film of the same name by Antonio Sauras are visually commentated by images of the body. Sound superimpositions which appear like faults combine with picture segments the colouring of which is deliberately untrue. Female hips swinging to the sound of the music are adorned with an Arabic scarf. The images articulate more in a poetic than an epic perspective the „savage“ sensuality of a liberal Carmen who fits into the context of modern female anarchists.
In the final shot the anarchist scarf has become the veil for the face of the artist/actress. The swinging movements of the hips lying like a shading mask over her eyes as if the previously seductive image and the seductive sound had hidden of veiled the true reality.
INNER LANDSCAPE- INSIGHT IMAGE1984, 19:37 Min.
„ Four sequences on the human body“ could be the sub-title of this video piece. Belly, area of the heart, neck and area of the eyes are the parts “mentioned”. By superimposing images of nature statements are created about the meaning that the artist gives them. The falling of a mighty water fall is combined with the image of the belly/stomach area. The picture of a flower is joined to the area of the heart, heightened with buzzing synthesiser sounds and motives from a violin concerto by Beethoven. A video poem emerged with verses, an intensive impression that stimulates the observer to develop own emotions about his body.
UPWARDS TO MOUNT EVEREST1983, 9:54 min.
Accompanies by spoken quotes from a diary of a Japanese lady mountaineer reporting about her ascent of Mount Everest, visual sequences are strung together to deal poetically with the associative visualisation of stages (legs) of an ascent. With UPWARDS TO MOUNT EVEREST Ulrike Rosenbach questions the sense of the world-famous ascent that seems to demand a nearly superhuman effort. Mount Everest – the mountain that “is always there” is also viewed in its spiritual dimension. Concrete film action appears like spiritual action. The previously expressed doubts as to the meaningfulness of the concrete undertaking appear thus in a different light, The work closes with the words “around us is (nothing but) snow”. The ascent of the summit, linked to incredible perils, is it meaningless? Has anything really been achieved – is anything achievable?
THE FAIRY TAPE/VISUAL GONG1983, 15:29 Min.
The video shows a shimmering surface slowly coming into motion. A surface of water? Hazy images emerge, whirring and darting across the disc of the full moon, pictures rising from the mist, dewy images of the memory embedded in landscapes of mountains and lakes, pictures of mothers and daughters in a family album. They rise to the sound of cymbals and gongs. Visual gong. In between, like a dialogue, the face of the artist, questioning, nebulous, shooting of darts (???) and at the end the dialogue of the distorted grimace, like a frog to the music of cicadas. It is a curious, dreamy fairy world, the world of reminiscences.
JUDO WOMEN HAVE MESSENGERS AS SUPPORT1981
JUDO WOMEN HAVE MESSENGERS AS SUPPORT IS A VIDEO Documentation of a performance of the same name produced by the ORF on the occasion of the staging of this work during the festival "Steirischer Herbst",in Graz, Austria.
Marlies Grüterich describes the performance as a ritual separation which the artist conducts „to also separate the emotions and the sense of lovers who no longer serve as agents of change for each other”. “With long steps she measured the distance between two walls of the room while chanting the children’s rhyme “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. An old woman boils roots. An old woman cooks bacon and you are gone.“ ... Cool boiling about a lack of savoir vivre, the woman tore the papering from the walls, tied herself up into their sheets until at the end of her raging there was chaos – in contrast to the woman herself. The TV-picture in front of the action room burnt the profile, became black and empty, like the reverse side of the action room made of paper….
DANCE AROUND A TREE1979, 26:15 Min.
DANCE AROUND A TREE is the video recording of phases of a performance by the same title that took place in the national park of Sydney with a view onto the reflecting glass fronts of the city.
The location of the action/performance unifies “extreme civilisation and mature on one spot. The performer translates the initiation ritual of the Aborigines to trace paths via the reflecting eyes of the external world to the inner world.
To arrive from a circle of reflecting rods to an ancient tree at its centre, she tied herself to the tree with a red video cable. While rotating in the circle of reflecting images which she beheaded with a sabre, a high-pitched woman’s voice underlined the beheading, rotating in her monitor attached to her arm: city, meadow, trees, above and below. ...“ (from a description by Marlies Grüterich)
LOTUSBUD SOUNDS1979; 6:41 min.
In the video „Lotusbud sounds“ the irritatingly slow action is a major element of expression. The screen is filled with the full frontal view of the artist’s face. In front of her face she joins her hands which hold two long batons. Each stroke produces a thumping, reverberating sound. With each centimetre of the slowly moving hands the face behind seems to change. The repetitive movements of the hands continue throughout, while the artist remains in permanent eye contact via the recording camera thereby retaining the tension. All this seems to breathe more the atmosphere of a meditation than the usual quick and lively commercial images of television that are likely to have formed the visual expectation of the viewer at the time the video was produced.
REFLECTIONS ON THE BIRTH OF VENUS1978, 21:20 min.
REFLECTIONS ON THE BIRTH OF Venus is a video piece in the broad cycle of photographic and performance work to the topic of Venus. Starting point is the work of Botticelli’s »The birth of Venus« dating from the 15th century. Up to the present day this painting serves as a much used model for the representation of female beauty and sexual availability of woman. It has become “a cliché of the erotic adaptation of woman to the sexual needs of men” as Rosenbach writes in 1975.
On the screen one sees the figure of the naked goddess standing in a large shell: lonely, robbed of her picturesque surrounding, in front of a black background, projected life-sized onto the wall. Embedded into the picture of Venus’ figure is the shape of the artist revolving slowly around herself to the rhythm of the Bob Dylan song “Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands“. Like the rhythm of change between day and night the turning actress becomes alternatively visible and invisible. The work impresses by its effective while simple motion which holds an amazing fascination due to its coherence.
DON’T BELIEVE I’M AN AMAZON1975, 10:34 min.
For the black and white video piece „DON’T BELIEVE I’M AN AMAZON“ Ulrike Rosenbach uses images of a performance with the same title by shooting fifteen arrows at a reproduction of “MADONNA IN THE ROSE HEDGE”. On the screen one sees the head of a medieval Madonna from a painting by Stefan Lochner and simultaneously, superimposed, the face of the artist. In steady sequence Rosenbach shoots off fifteen arrows from a bow that hit the superimposed image of both faces.
The ambiguous connotation of the piece and the convincing simplicity of the conversion made it become one of the most successful works of the artist. In an early text she remarks: I identify myself both with the gentle image of the Madonna as well as with that of the aggressiveness of an amazon: the image of the Madonna, representative, inaccessibly beautiful, gentle, timid and as a cliché fairly fatuous is also part of me. When the arrows hit the image, they also hit me.
DANCE FOR A WOMAN1975, 6:44 Min., b/w, sound
The black and white video DANCE FOR A WOMAN shows the artist as dancer turning incessantly around her to the tune of the waltz “I dance with you into the heaven” by Strauss. The action is filmed from above and visualises thus the seemingly faceless centre of a spinning voile skirt.
The tune is constantly repeated reflecting the endless turnings of the dance. The image is both: dizzy and unsettling. The figure appears from above like the turning ballerina of a music box gentling swaying to and fro in the frame of the screen only to balance itself out again in the centre. The dancing woman resembles the core but, in this form, causes fright. She turns into a record stuck to the turntable of habit and role-playing. The togetherness suggested by the tune is missing completely. The artist paraphrases the title of the waltz “I dance with you into the heaven” by relating it solely to herself. At the end of the tape she breaks down.
MADONNAS OF THE FLOWERS1974, 7:07 min.
The dissolution of an ideal is topic of this early black and white video piece. Stimulated by the experience of the flower parade taking place annually at New Year’s Day in Pasadena (California), where hundreds of women dressed up as „Flower Queens“ pass on opulent carts through the streets, Ulrike Rosenbach created this ironic piece. Accompanied by the syrupy rhythms of Hawaiian music the artist and her daughter celebrate a curious ritual with the insignias of the “Flower Queen”: crown of rays and fan.
“MADONNAS OF THE FLOWERS is the reckoning up with an instilled ‘value’ that treats the vanishing of youth and beauty as equal to loss of identity” Rosenbach writes in an early text. The piece wants to make the viewer aware of the cliché of the ‘slave of the beautiful pose, the queen lifted onto the altar, without blemish and without character’.
SORRY MISTER1974, 11:28 min.
The video was created during a live performance at the Art Fair Cologne in the year 1974. The artist, dressed in tight sport clothes, stands on a small stage and hits her right hand against the inside of one of her thighs. This procedure is accompanied by the rhythm of the classic pop-songs by Brenda Lee, whose text is determinant for the meaning of the piece.
During the ten minutes in which the artist subjects herself to this action, the skin of her thigh changes colour and turns dark. The video clip shows only this part of the body, the thigh and the progression of the self-inflicted injury. With this ironic and also absurd gesture Ulrike Rosenbach refers to the masochist context of the piece and thereby to the classic attitude to life which society has imposed on the image of woman.
TYING TO JULIA1973, 4:53 min.
The artist in the role of the performer wraps long bandages around her torso and that of her daughter. This simple act of tying, wrapping, holding tight and keeping is familiar in the context of the iconography of the women’s culture of the seventies of the twentieth century, one of whose co-founder was Ulrike Rosenbach.
In „TYING TO JULIA“ the strangling interlacing between mother and child is demonstrated that results in the adherence of the woman in the role of a mother – the tying can also be considered as a reversed birth piece, as a re-tying, a „planting the child to the Self”. (Lucy Lippard)