Keimena #17: Chamissos Schatten, Kapitel 1: Alaska und aleutische Inseln (Chamisso’s Shadow, Chapter 1: Alaska and Aleutian Islands)
by Ulrike Ottinger

Monday April 10, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Chamissos Schatten, Kapitel 1: Alaska und Aleutische Inseln (Chamisso’s Shadow, Chapter 1: Alaska and Aleutian Islands), 2016, Germany, 193 min.
Director: Ulrike Ottinger

Ulrike Ottinger’s Chamissos Shadow Chapter 1: Alaska and Aleutian Islands takes as its point of departure the accounts of Adelbert von Chamisso. The nineteenth-century botanist and poet was a voyager on the Romanzow research expedition, which aimed to find a passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Neither a travelogue nor a documentary, Chamissos Shadow weaves together sound and visuals in a cinematic fabric that intertwines past and present, art and ethnography.

Ottinger combines observations from Chamisso’s expedition notes with excerpts from his 1814 novella Peter Schlemihl’s Miraculous Story, alongside accounts from other early explorers and her own experience. The result is a meditation on capitalism’s expansionist phase, and on the notion of the observer as a subject who is constructed by history.

German Romanticism, flourishing at the time of Chamisso’s voyage, proposed that nature and culture were interdependent. Equally, that natural sciences and the humanities should be harmonized. This film’s aesthetic and narrative approaches express a desire to overcome those separations: between science and art, the observer and the observed, the human and the nonhuman.

Ottinger restructures the cinematic experience of space and time by moving between then and now, exploring spaces in-between. Her film moves along the border between what is observed, and what is represented. Chamisso’s Shadow is a statement about the changing processes of perception

—Raquel Schefer, filmmaker and researcher

Posted in Public TV on 04.10.2017