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The androgynous look. Elfi Mikesch: directing, camera, photography. Hommage on the occasion of her 70th birthday

24. March 2010 – 28. June 2010

Films tell stories via pictures, and it is very astonishing that the creators of the pictures, the camera people, are rarely mentioned in film reviews. Female “cameramen” are seldom. Elfi Mikesch is one of the few and she is also a director. Without her suggestive camera the films of Rosa von Praunheim would be poorer. Only a little later in Berlin with the photo novel OH MUVIE did their artistic co-operation begin, which has lasted with only few interruptions to this day. The two artists met in Frankfurt/Main in the sixties. At Praunheim’s she met Werner Schroeter. She signed for his Oscar-Wilde-adaptation Salome as make-up artist and stand photographer. Schroeter appreciated her calming influence, the creation of a harmonic atmosphere, which offers security for the actors and enables them to devote themselves completely to the camera. An impressive example of that is Magdalena Montezuma’s last scene in Der Rosenkönig (The king of roses). Connected with the appropriate Superstars Mikesch, Praunheim, and Schroeter were the anarchic talent force of the subversive film.

Mikesch received the Film Ribbon in Silver with her first film Ich denke oft an Hawaii (I often think of Hawaii). There were many honours. In 2006 she was the first woman to receive the camera of honour of the German Camera Prize . Not only among the lesbian audience the film Verführung – Die Grausame Frau (Seduction – The cruel woman) which she realised with her then life- and work partner Monika Treut, caused a lot of sensation. Feministic counter-culture, which challenged the (hetero)sexual convention: however, Elfi Mikesch realises her look as an androgynous one. Art is polymorphic for her. In her opinion it’s not about stories, but about deviation, which contradicts the logic of story telling. In her opinion cinema is also the luxury in pictures rumbling under the surface of the medium. In her opinion art must have the liberty to investigate new things far beyond the audience rating. Even if it is expensive. Unfortunately the courage of promotion of the TV stations grows less. Artists like Elfi Mikesch are threatened to become silent.

Elfi Mikesch, who always wanted to be an artist , started her training as a photographer. An honourable profession for women. Since the invention of photography this medium has been a favourite possibility to use female intuition efficiently. The first astonishing thing in her photographic work is the devotion of the portrayed people, moments of self- forgetting taking shape, moments of self- presence and simultaneously eliminating oneself as the object of the photographer. Or in the words of Rosa von Praunheim: “Elfi is one of the loveliest people I have all over the world, and who I admire free from envy. She only has one fault she is too modest. Thus it is difficult to make the grand career, which she might deserve.”

The photographic work of Elfi Mikesch is the central point of our hommage and we honour the grand lady of camera and direction. We exhibit photographs from OH MUVIE and stills from Execution. A study of Mary, which were already exhibited in the Gallery Werner Kunze in 1977 and fascinated Heinz Ohff: “A little masterpiece, hot, pathetic, spirited and enormously esthetic.” In addition there is a selection from the book Traum der Dinge (Dream of things) published by Martin Schmitz, and rare photographs from the artist’s collection. We thank Elfi Mikesch and Lilly Grote for their active support.

Curator: Wolfgang Theis