Ulrike Ottinger

Was ‘pop art’ a term used by yourself or colleagues or was there a different terminology that referred to a new figurative art movement in the 1960s and early 1970s?

I used both expressions: pop and nouvelle figuration. Of course I was aware of Ileana Sonnabend’s exhibition in Paris, but I also felt close to the figuration narrative movement, to which some of my surrealist friends belonged together with the leading critic and theorist Gérard Gassiot-Talabot. I was interested in the narrative of images, and I studied baroque art exploring different dramatic strategies for my paintings.

Did you ever consider yourself (now or in the past) a pop artist?

Yes.

Did your work engage with current events in the 1960s and early 1970s?

Yes, in the way that I questioned the current social and political events that were becoming more and more ideological, especially the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist groups being very radical, whereas the Trotskyites were more differentiated. My interests in ethnology (Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Leiris, Victor Segalen), the Nouveau Roman and the Nouvelle vague were important sources of inspiration. Structuralism helped me to find visual solutions for the multiple political, social and aesthetic layers I was trying to include in my paintings.

How did you choose the subject matter for your works included in The World Goes Pop? Where did you get your imagery from (what, if any, sources did you use)?

My inspirations came from very different sources like flipper automats, advertisements, newspapers, cybernetic models and political events. I experimented with photographic mises en scènes with my friends and with self-portraits as means to create a sort of fierce theatricality dissecting religious, political, economic or scientific structures.

Were you aware of pop art in other parts of the world?

Yes, I was aware of American and British pop art.

Was commercial art an influence on your work or the way in which it was made?

I was interested in advertising and the ways in which it uses strong visual effects to address and seduce people. I was also fascinated by the department store as the new temple of capitalism, with its everyday rituals, analysing what is old in the new and new in the old.

Was there a feeling at the time that you were doing something important and new, making a change…?

Yes, I felt I was doing something absolutely new.

Was there an audience for the work at the time – and if so what was their reaction to it?

There was a split between the audiences. My work was shocking for the followers of the École de Paris but was received enthusiastically by the people of the Biennale international de l’Éstampe in Paris.

Looking back at these works, what you do think about them now?

I feel as if I were on the same ‘work in progress’ since then because the themes and images I had been working on at the time are building the nucleus of my films, photographs and installations up to now.

September 2015