Mika Rottenberg Interview: What is the Connection

The exceptional video artist Mika Rottenberg here presents her intriguing video installation ‘Cosmic Generator.’ Set on the U.S.-Mexico border and in a huge Chinese market, the work explores the collapse – or reinforcement – of distance.

Rottenberg was inspired by a huge plastic commodities market in China (Yiwu Market) as well as a border town between Mexico and California (Mexicali and Calexico), which has a lot of traffic back and forth in spite of the big border wall running through it. In contrast to this, the market in China had merchandises that were unique to that place: “I was interested in, on one hand, how certain objects are allowed to circulate the world very freely, and how, on the other hand, some other objects, or products, or people, are very restricted…” The border town is also known for its underground tunnels, and rather than looking at it in a bigger political sense, Rottenberg thought of it as a sculpture that subverts the border with its divisions of space and distance.

“Art is always political in a way, and not, at the same time. I think maybe it’s free from making clear statements. I hope it’s more nuanced than a political statement.” Because she began the piece before Trump came into office, suddenly the connection she had sensed between the Chinese market and the border town became more real: “And then he started talking all about China and Mexico, and I was like, oh, I guess there was a connection.” In continuation of this, Rottenberg feels that art – “like in a good painting” – allows you to choose to focus on a detail rather than on the entire picture: “It’s a subjective reading of our world right now from a very intuitive and textural kind of place.”

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 surreal video and installation work that often deals with the subject of female labour. Working in video, installation and sculpture, her video works often feature women with unconventional bodies in performances, who perform physical acts that reflect the human condition in post-modern times. Rottenberg’s work has been exhibited internationally.

In the video, Rottenberg talks about her video installation ‘Cosmic Generator (Loaded #1)’, 2017, which reflects on our globally connected reality. ‘Cosmic Generator’ refers to a tunnel system that establishes a trading connection between various places and actors, among them the Mexican city of Mexicali, and Calexico, the Californian town on the other side of the border fence. Rumour has it that the entrance to the tunnels can be accessed via shops and restaurants in Mexicali’s Chinatown.

Mika Rottenberg was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in November 2017.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Cover photo: From ‘Cosmic Generator’ (2017) by Mika Rottenberg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017

Supported by Nordea-fonden