Mika Rottenberg Interview: Social Surrealism
She finds her odd “bigger than life characters” on the internet. In her peculiar, dreamlike video works they use their bodies as means of production creating what the artist calls “a spiritual kind of Marxism.” Meet the incomparable Mika Rottenberg!
The rise of the internet was a revelation to Rottenberg, who discovered that this was the optimal way of searching for people, who rented out their bodies: “It really starts with falling in love with someone’s appearance – or the way that they carry their appearance – and then we meet. It’s like a blind date.” A lot of the characters that Rottenberg uses are quite large or tall, and she feels that this is exactly what makes them confident in their own bodies: “I think we all feel strange inside our body, and trapped inside our body, and to work with someone who has an extraordinary size or something about them … it’s inspiring how they learn to inhabit their body.”
“I am just obsessed with the way things are made, how things take their final shape,” Rottenberg says. “If you peel the skin from that you see all these processes.” The different states of material and how nothing is really solid is at the core of many of her projects. For example in ‘Tsss Tsss Tsss’ (2014) – an installation with an air-conditioner, where water from condensation drips into a hot frying pan on a hotplate, making the drops sizzle and evaporate. Rottenberg feels that we in our age of the internet are moving away from physicality: “There’s so much de-materialization. But in the end we’re all made of materials.” In this way, works like ‘Tsss Tsss Tsss’ gives shape to the shapeless – to things that are hard to grasp – in order to be able to look at and reflect on them.
Rottenberg’s work is a constant conversation between herself and what she is making, and because she is aware that she often changes her mind, she likes to “fence it in” in order to make decisions that she can’t change. Moreover, though she doesn’t consider her work to be political, she feels that being an artist is a way for her to be involved and to “interfere with the system” and “negotiate reality.”
Mika Rottenberg is a video artist born in 1976 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, raised in Tel Aviv, Israel, and now based in New York City. She is best known for her video and installation work that often deals with the subject of female labour, e.g. a Chinese pearl production in the work ‘NoNoseKnows’ (2015), which was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2015. Her work has been exhibited at the Tate Modern, London, and at the Whitney Biennale, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art, New York. Solo exhibitions of Rottenberg’s work have been shown at prominent venues such as MoMA PS1 in New York and Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Rottenberg is also the recipient of numerous awards including The Cartier Award at the Frieze Art Fair in 2006.
Mika Rottenberg was interviewed by Christian Lund at Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art in Copenhagen in November 2016.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Produced by: Christian Lund
Cover photo: From ‘NoNoseKnows’ (2015) by Mika Rottenberg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017
Supported by Nordea-fonden