[Critique] Mika Rottenberg’s surreal production lines

The works of Mika Rottenberg, which the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) presents in its first exhibition in Quebec, offer a critique that is as pleasurable as it is uncomfortable for productivity and commodification, hypercapitalism and globalization.

His video installations show bodies and places that, from action to action, generate absurd and funny production chains. Furthermore, we don’t really know whether the colorful protagonists of his works want to escape their endless carousel. seriously inNoNoseKnows (Artist Variant) (2015), fetishist Bunny Glamazon sneezes repeatedly, secreting plates of pasta while, below, true pearl breeders manipulate the clams.

Assiduous at international events, with notable presences, among others at the Venice Biennale (2015) and at Skulptur Projekte in Münster (2017), the artist born in Buenos Aires (1976) who lives and works in New York is one of those Very popular Globetrotters. Mika Rottenberg excels as much for the sharp intelligence of her works as for her seductive capacity.

He is therefore happy to see his work here in this exhibition which, however, MAC – in collaboration on this project with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Toronto – presents in a reduced format. The pandemic and the museum’s temporary move to Place Ville Marie have outstripped initial plans, with works unavailable and space becoming scarce.

It doesn’t matter the artist. “I compose with the space given to me,” she told the Have to few hours before the opening of your exhibition. She knows how to use the space with mastery, as evidenced by the exhibition’s script, whose studied detachment benefits the reception of exuberant videos, without dialogues or stories.

space crossings

“I have problems with monumental objects,” explains one who prefers to shoot material where it is in abundance, in real and fictional filming locations, a pearl factory or the gigantic market in Yiwu. So, parallel to the videos, Rottenberg’s sculptures adopt a very diminutive scale, fragments of artificial bodies, such as a finger that stays on the wall and a red-lipped mouth that opens, welcoming the gaze while it is close to the audience.

The mysterious character of the works — bodies treated as objects and vice versa — expresses a certain affiliation with surrealism, claimed by the artist. She calls her practice “social surrealism”, acknowledging her interest in a Marxist approach to materialism. Curator Lesley Johnstone, head of exhibitions at MAC, approaches her work from the point of view of “neomaterialism”, whose theories give matter the power of action. “By showing different interactions between bodies and machines, she also writes in the booklet, Rottenberg offers an allegory of the increasing commodification of biological life. »

Depending on the situations portrayed in the works, women of color are the first to be concerned. At the same time that he disturbs the recognition of places, the artist geographically locates the inequalities observed, for example, in Asia and on the border between Mexico and the United States in Cosmic Generator (2017).

Through some fragments of scenery skillfully integrated into the exhibition, the artist symbolically makes us travel very far. A curtain of rubbish accentuates our physical journey to another place that, while unlikely, is suddenly more connected to our existence. The same goes for this space where the pearls are kept, as if the semi-basement that houses the MAC was already its hidden landmark.

maddening mess

The invisible connections between people and things have long inspired the artist who, to structure the maddening disorder of these unveiled networks, opts for geometric shapes. The hexagon features spaghetti blockchain (2019), the most recent work in the exhibition, which unites images of throat singer Choduraa Tumat, the particle accelerator at CERN near Geneva, and a strange RASM (Autonomous Sensory Response Meridian), echoing the phenomenon popularized by YouTube in recent years. years old .

The artist knows something about the auditory, visual and tactile stimuli that she arouses in her works since the turn of the 2000s. She takes the exercise to a climax in the video staging gelatin molds with fun properties whose colors betray artificiality. Until the pasta lands on the plate like fried eggs.

Nothing is trivial with Mika Rottenberg and at the same time yes, because it is about the objects that surround us and the gestures performed daily, on chosen or imposed bases. Interpersonal communications, which the pandemic has made so precious with forced isolation, are at the heart of his next film, Remote controlfirst narrative feature still in production that MAC promises to introduce in the fall.

Mika Rottenberg

Curator: Lesley Johnstone. At the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal until October 10th.

to see on video

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