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ROTTENBERG, Mika/ ARTISTS AFTER 1900/ ART MAIN

 American artist

New York–based video artist Mika Rottenberg is known for her large-scale installations and interest in labour as well as process. 

Mary Boone with Cube

Still from:
Squeeze, 2010
Single channel video installation, digital C-print
Video duration: 20 minutes; overall dimensions variable
Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery / Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery

To createSqueeze, Rottenberg began by shooting documentary footage at a rubber plant in India and at a lettuce farm in Arizona. She then spliced it together with scenes of female workers in an absurdist makeup factory of her own imagining (actually a mechanized set constructed in the artist's studio). Rottenberg's video entwines these sites to chart the mass production of an "art object": a lumpy, subtly revolting cube made of rubber, decomposing lettuce, and blush. This "product" is a direct and self-reflexive riff on the prevailing value system of the contemporary art market, which positions artists and art objects as the hierarchical opposites of factory workers and their products. By setting her factory against the realities of mass production, Rottenberg broadens her focus beyond the art world. Significantly, in recognition of the fact that in current capitalist practice goods are often produced by a class of laborers who are at a far remove socially, racially, and geographically from the daily lives of consumers, Squeeze unites a broad spectrum of workers to enact the artist's satirical tale of art production. Thus, although Rottenberg trains her lens on the condition of a particular subset of workers—women—the piece reminds us that gender is but one classifier that determines our place in the mechanisms of global economics. 

Rottenberg's uncommon and unsettling vision of art and commerce is mirrored in the uncommon and potentially disorienting museum experience she creates for viewers. To reach the video, one must travel a mazelike installation. This physical passage offers a through-the-rabbit-hole journey into an alternate art space in which impossible and uncanny events transpire, serving as an architectural symbol of the absurdist approach with which Rottenberg produces serious commentary on current social conditions. 

To create her short films, she typically pursues an idea through drawings that give free rein to her imagination. Next she begins the careful casting process to find real people (instead of trained actors) who will interact with her mazelike, sculptural installation. She collaborates with a team of carpenters, engineers, and other assistants to build the environment or film set. Even before the construction is complete, she works with her characters in the space—almost as objects or motion studies—filming them and tailoring each compartment to fit their behaviours and unique corporeal features. Hours of footage are then edited down to produce the final video, which often incorporates moments when the actors forgot the camera was rolling. 

"I began the work by visiting a rubber plant in India and an iceberg lettuce farm in Arizona. Then I designed a telekinetic machine. We built a set in my Harlem studio and used “movie magic” to create visual slippage between the three locations. In Squeeze there are portals to the rubber plant and the lettuce farm, which allow workers to collaborate on the production of “an object.” The telekinetic machine produces a compressed cube from globally sourced rubber, lettuce, and makeup. I wanted this piece to be self-referential and since it will be shown at Mary Boone GalleGallery, I wanted to somehow bring in the fascinating way in which the art market assigns value to objects.

"Bonnie is cast as the manager, but in real life she is also very powerful and managerial. She is a fetish fantasy worker. She has sessions with clients that are not explicitly sexual; it is still a mystery to me what exactly goes on. Once a year, she attends a convention for amazon women, which is where I met her. Her work is not dissimilar from that of an artist or an actress. When you’re making creative work, you in some ways commodify your soul and your emotions. Raqui, the star of Dough is beautiful. She has so much pride in the way she carries herself and it is very inspiring to me. She is a size-acceptance activist, and she wrote about my 2006 video Dough on on her website. People accuse me of basically hiring women’s bodies, but I don’t. These women own their own means of production."

Still from Squeeze
Still from: ong
Squeeze, 2010
Single channel video installation, digital C-print
Video duration: 20 minutes; overall dimensions variable
Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery / Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery
 
Still from Squeeze, 2010
Still from:
Squeeze, 2010
Single channel video installation, digital C-print
Video duration: 20 minutes; overall dimensions variable
Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery / Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery
 
Rottenberg - Cheese
Installation view:
Cheese, 2008
Multichannel video installation
Dimensions variable
2008 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art
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Known for videos depicting women engaging in elaborate systems of production that often harvest their own body, Mika shows us the set of her latest piece (and Biennial installation), "Cheese" and tells us the backstory of making the video. 






































 
 
Mika Rottenberg: Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery.(video exhibitions): An article from: Artforum International  
Mika Rottenberg: Dough.: An article from: C: International Contemporary Art
Mika Rottenberg: An article from: C: International Contemporary Art