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Ulrike Ottinger, Das perfekte Ebenbild und seine unaufthaltsame Mechanik (The Perfect Image and Its Unrelenting Mechanics), 1977, C-print, 35 3⁄8 × 23 5⁄8".

Ulrike Ottinger

Bridget Donahue

Taken on the set of filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger’s swashbuckling s/m fantasy Madame X: An Absolute Ruler (1977), the photograph Das perfekte Ebenbild und seine unaufthaltsame Mechanik (The Perfect Image and Its Unrelenting Mechanics) captures a saucy tableau on board the corsair Orlando. A female pirate—sporting fetishy, elbow-length gloves; a black bralette; and an irrepressibly blonde, Boris Vallejo–worthy mane—wields a stake over actress Tabea Blumenschein, cast as the flesh-and-blood, leather-clad figurehead bedecking the ship’s bow. Moments later, the pirate will ecstatically plunge her blade into the speciously motionless ornament. The figure will then awaken and put her assailant in a chokehold, asphyxiating her with cyborg strength.

Beginning as a painter in the 1960s, Ottinger emerged in the following decade as a leading maker of postmodern German film. Loosely plotted, image-driven,

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