Gabriela Pichler in conversation with Tessa Praun
May 2, 6-7 pm, at Magasin 3
Free admission. No pre-registration necessary, but seating is limited.
If you want more out of life than just to eat, sleep, die…
The term ‘work’ has become a buzzword that is frequently cited in the Swedish media, politics and current affairs.
Curator Tessa Praun discusses this important topic with film director Gabriela Pichler. Through art and film they examine the different ways in which ‘work’ is depicted across contemporary art forms. Why is it such a heated subject? How does the concept of ‘work’ differ in artist Mika Rottenberg’s imagery and Gabriela Pichler’s critically acclaimed feature film Eat Sleep Die (2012)?
Gabriela Pichler lives and works in Gothenburg, Sweden. Her first feature film Eat Sleep Die premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2012, where it won the Audience Award. The film has since received several international awards including four Swedish Guldbagge awards for Best Film, Best Direction, Best Screenplay and Best Actress. Pichler is considered one of Sweden’s most interesting new filmmakers, celebrated for both her distinctive storytelling and an unconventional method of working with mostly amateur actors.
About the film: Eat Sleep Die tells the story of the brazen 20-year-old tomboy Raša (Nermina Lukač). A Balkan immigrant, Raša lives with her father in Skåne and works at the local vegetable processing plant. When the factory makes cutbacks, Raša loses her job and is forced to navigate the ineffective Swedish unemployment system.
ARTIST TALK MIKA ROTTENBERG
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2013
In this podcast Mika Rottenberg discusses her art and the process of putting together the exhibition Sneeze to Squeeze with curator Tessa Praun. Mika Rottenberg explains how various works evolved, including Tropical Breeze, Dough, Squeeze, and Cheese, tracing from conception through execution and finally to the presentation at Magasin 3.
Mika Rottenberg reveals various sources of inspiration, including Karl Marx’s labor theory, the multifaceted nature of New York City, and a farm in rural Florida. She describes how the factories in her artworks portray closed economic structures that she considers no more peculiar than our absurd reality.
The talk also touches upon intriguing questions of how value is created, the effect of different spaces on the body, the symbiotic relationship between exhibitionism and voyeurism, alchemical transformation, the mystique surrounding certain products and what it is like to participate in a hair convention with the Long Hair Club.
Length: 54:59 min
Infinite Earth, is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by artists Mika Rottenberg and Alona Harpaz, and others. Its mission is to create local, cooperatively run centers of production for communities in need throughout the world, paying particular attention to the needs of women and children. It seeks to provide women with the tools to earn their own livelihood by helping them to establish workshops, manufacturing plants, small businesses and resource centers. These ventures are being supported through the sale of artwork: multiples or prints created by artists in support of specific initiatives.
In this interview from The Believer Magazine (2010), Mika Rottenberg speaks about the distinction between art film and cinema, and describes her relationship with the women featuring in her films.
Demo: Flying Ponytail Matchbox (2013)
Mika Rottenberg has created Flying Ponytail Matchbox (2013), a special hand painted and signed edition of 25. The edition will be for sale at Magasin 3 for the duration of the exhibition. This clip shows Mika Rottenberg’s demonstration of her edition Flying Ponytail Matchbox, filmed by curator Tessa Praun during a visit to the artist’s studio in New York.
Foreword by Ann Demeester
Texts by Linda Williams, Hsuan L. Hsu, and Efrat Mishori
Interviews by Mika Rottenberg
Published by Gregory R. Miller & Co with de Appel Arts Centre
Published on the occasion of Mika Rottenberg’s retrospective exhibition at de Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam, this first publication on the acclaimed young artist presents a comprehensive overview of her work to date. It includes extensive sections on all of Rottenberg’s major video installations, culminating with “Squeeze” (2010). Video stills, diagrams, drawings and previously unpublished source material are interwoven with essays investigating the work from political, philosophical and historical perspectives
Click here to see more illustrations of Mika Rottenberg’s artist book.
Once again, something wonderfully exciting is happening – this season we pursue our tradition of introducing an entirely new oeuvre to the Nordic countries. Prior to the opening, our galleries have been substantially rebuilt in order to match the specific requirements of the New York-based artist Mika Rottenberg. This kind of groundwork is always a definite highlight when working on an exhibition. Months of planning, numerous trips to New York by curator Tessa Praun, Mika’s visit to us here at Magasin 3, hundreds of e-mails, new works, loans from other museums, great help from Mika’s galleries, carpentry, searching for suitable projectors, dozens of assistants… the list of things involved in producing an exhibition is endless.
Mika Rottenberg belongs to a new generation of artists who apply a highly personal, not to say quirky, approach both in style and content to a vast field of subjects. Most of her work relates to the exploration of how physical efforts can be transformed into material objects. It is also entirely possible to look at Mika Rottenberg’s imagery from a purely “classical” point of view, immersing oneself in its surrealism and being carried away on exceedingly strange and evocative journeys.
Many people have been involved – but there are some whom I wish to thank more specifically: Mika, who with her extraordinary presence has been a true inspiration; our friends at Andrea Rosen Gallery, especially Andrea Rosen, Andrea Cashman and Teneille Haggard; Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery and Natalie Campbell; and Julia Stoschek Foundation in Düsseldorf for generously lending us works.
Now, we welcome you into Mika’s world!
David Neuman, Director
A film made in the artist’s studio 2012/13 and during the installation of the exhibition by its curator Tessa Praun.
A series of talks on questions of labor and value in art and criticism, held on the occasion of Mika Rottenberg’s exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary in 2012.
The work Cheese (2008) is loosely based on the true story of the seven Sutherland sisters, who in New York in the late nineteenth century manufactured and sold their own hair product, The Lucky Number 7 – Seven Sutherland Sisters’ Hair Grower. Read more about the Sutherland sisters in and article from The American Weekly, November 16, 1947.
Mika Rottenberg’s work Sneeze (2012) was inspired by one of the first films ever made; Thomas Edison’s motion study Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894).
Mika Rottenberg, in her Harlem studio, talking about the making of Cheese (2008) and other works-
Mika Rottenberg at Magasin 3, Foto: Christian Saltas
Mika Rottenberg was born in 1976 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Raised and educated in Israel, she relocated to New York ten years ago, where she now lives and works. Her work has recently been shown at Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, and FRAC Languedoc- Roussillon, Montpellier (2012), M-Museum Leuven, Belgium (2011), De Appel, Amsterdam (2011), and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (2010). Her work was also exhibited at the Whitney Biennal, New York (2008), Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (2008), Tate Modern, London (2007) and MoMA PS1, New York (2005). In 2006 she took part in the exhibition Uncertain States of America at Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, which toured to Serpentine Gallery, London, Bard College Center of Curatorial Studies, Annandale-on-Hudson and other venues in Europe and Asia.
Her work is held in the collections of museums such as Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo (NO); Fonds régional d’art contemporain (FRAC), Languedoc-Roussillon (FR); The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (USA); La Maison Rouge, Paris (FR); Museum of Modern Art, New York (USA); Julia Stoschek Foundation, Düsseldorf (DE), and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (USA).
Sneeze to Squeeze
Legs stamping, hands kneading, muscles flexing, sweat dripping, tears running; there is pounding, groaning, sizzling and evaporating. Frantic and apparently ceaseless work is going on in Mika Rottenberg’s film installations. In surreal scenes, women are engaged in creating banal objects in protracted processes resembling factory assembly lines. The workers in Rottenberg’s videos are often played by women who earn their living on their distinctive physical features, such as extreme obesity, muscularity, height or unusually long nails or hair. These are women who feel confident in their bodies, and who are exceedingly self-aware. Mika Rottenberg sees them as “talents”, and works with them according to their specific physical attributes. In claustrophobic settings, her characters produce maraschino cherries, dough, make-up and wet-wipes in the most astonishing ways.
In the work Squeeze (2010), some sort of magical powers set the process in motion. The factory-like, narrow structure produces pink make-up and appears to be directly connected to a lettuce field somewhere on the North American continent, and to a rubber plantation in India. Different individuals and groups of female workers perform specific tasks. Their clothes and accessories are inspired by fast food chain waitresses and beauty salon technicians. As part of the machinery, bottoms, hands, tongues and lips protrude from the walls; they are dampened and scrupulously softened. The women are mutually dependent and part of a continuous cycle, where iceberg lettuce, rubber and make-up are mixed into a strange substance and finally molded into a cube of no obvious value. In Mika Rottenberg’s world, the women are neither enthusiastic nor particularly bored, but keep on working, repeating their tasks in a continuous flow. This is a visual and conceptual fireworks display, that takes us through strange processes with a logic as elusive as it is absurdly evident. The works are accompanied by distinct soundscapes that enhance the experience: Hard-working bodies in motion, drumming nails, whirring machines, trickling milk, we can almost feel the wind, the smell, the humidity, bodies swelling, bodies being squeezed. Rottenberg’s working process is often triggered by a particular sound or smell, a material or a texture. The characters, scenarios and production processes are then developed around these sensory perceptions, in a form of storyboard drawings, which are on view in poster format in the cafe at Magasin 3. The narrative further takes shape in collaboration with the actors, technicians and carpenters as they work together, creating the structures in which the films are shot. In these mini-factories, machines and humans become distinctly connected as the architecture and equipment adapts to the physical shape and ability of each individual. The elaborate film sets are alternately concrete and imaginative, and together with the production processes they become metaphors for the global consumerist system.
Mika Rottenberg sees her works as sculptures, where the moving image is one of several components. She uses details from the films, such as lowered ceilings, narrow spaces, cardboard boxes and walls covered in the by now for her emblematic plaster texture, and extend these into the exhibition space, thereby creating work specific settings. For the exhibition at Magasin 3, Mika Rottenberg has, for the first time, produced works that are solely object-based. The six sculptures on the lower floor appear to be wall sections torn from one of her film sets. Here the walls are covered in plaster applied in different ways to obtain a variety of rough surfaces. The sculptures are plastic casts of these surfaces in pale pink, yellow, grey and turquoise, and have, in the exhibition, been propped up against the wall. Mika Rottenberg reflects more often on what something feels like, than on what it looks like. With these sculptures, she activates senses other than seeing, as she brings us closer to a tactile experience. On the upper level she has added a site-specific set consisting of a wall structure and a rotating ceiling fan that is visible through a small opening in the wall. This is not a work in itself, but becomes part of the overreaching narrative. Her intention is to include us in her work, to make us aware of our own bodies in relation to the surroundings when we literally step into her world.
It is the production process in itself that is the primary target of Mika Rottenberg’s attention, and instead of focusing on the product, we see how the labor of our bodies can be transformed into physical objects. She complicates our perception of objects and their commercial potential, by letting the women produce trivial and apparently useless things. In Squeeze, moreover, she upgrades the end product, the cube of waste, into a work of art that is for sale. The ownership of the cube is divided into seven equal shares, which accompany the purchase of the film installation. Today, the cube is in safe storage on the Cayman Islands, as an object to be preserved eternally. It is beyond the reach even of its owners. By selling shares in an unattainable, unattractive and presumably perishable object, she is playing with established notions of what a work of art is or should be.
Mika Rottenberg has the rare ability to comment on prevailing social conditions in an evocative and visually seductive way. Quotidian aesthetics are imbued with new meaning as she shows us a prevailing production and consumer chain that is both familiar and intuitively disturbing, whilst also aiming a sharp blow at our contemporary warped body culture. The works can be interpreted in general from a broader feminist perspective that incorporates aspects such as the contemporary body fixation and a poetic approach to Marx’ theories on labor. With her unique, lighthearted, absurd narratives, Mika Rottenberg creates art that is both serious and thought-provoking, and also liberatingly funny.
Tessa Praun, Curator
Preparatory drawings for: Tropical Breeze (2004) Courtesy of the Artist, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.
Preparatory drawings for: Dough (2005-2006) Courtesy of the Artist, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.
Preparatory drawings for: Cheese (2008) Courtesy of the Artist, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.
Preparatory drawings for: Squeeze (2010) Courtesy of the Artist, Nicole Klagsbrun, New York and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.
Artist talk & book signing at Magasin 3 with Mika Rottenberg
Friday February 8 at 4pm
Curator Tessa Praun talks with Mika Rottenberg about her art and the exhibition Sneeze to Squeeze. Afterwards, Mika Rottenberg is available to sign her new catalogue. In English.
Air conditioner, plant, hotplate, frying pan, water
Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York; Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York Drawing: Mika Rottenberg, November 2012
As part of the work Squeeze, an air conditioning unit has been fixed to the outer wall of the film screening room, with a plant placed on top. This unit stands as a reference to the machine in the film, used to cool the air of the factory-like structure that forms the hub of this extraordinary production process. Characteristic of Mika Rottenberg’s work is how she incorporates details from her films into the architectonic layout of the exhibition space, so as to enhance the experience.
Upon our approach to the work Squeeze, as it has been installed at Magasin 3, we hear a hissing noise. Tiny drops of condensed water drip from the unit into a sizzling frying pan: “tsss, tsss…tsss”. The drops hardly touch the frying pan before they skittle around and evaporate. In this way, for the exhibition in Stockholm, Mika Rottenberg has added a special twist to one of her installations, whilst also creating an entirely new work that may be shown separately.
Mika Rottenberg’s working process often begins with a certain fascination for a sound, a smell, or a taste. She wants to reach beyond the purely visual, and give form to our more abstract sensory perceptions. She builds her narratives around the often trivial experiences that we, through our bodies, only register subconsciously. Her interest in noises, tactility, bodily sensations, is also manifest in her choice of titles, which often rhyme with each other. The way we shape our lips and tongues to pronounce these words, how they feel in our mouths and how they sound – all this becomes part of the total experience when we visit Mika Rottenberg’s world of fantastical narratives.
Texture 1–6, 2013
Polyurethane resin, acrylic paint
Courtesy Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York; Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
Image: One part of a sculpture pair. Photo: Jessica Eckert
For this exhibition at Magasin 3, Mika Rottenberg has created a group of six sculptures. This is the first time her work is purely object-based, and as the moving image is no longer an intrinsic part of the whole, this represents a new direction. The sculptures appear as if they have been torn from the walls of one of her film-sets, and simply propped up against the gallery wall. In reality, these are plastic casts of the kind of rough wall structures made out of plaster that often appear in her films.
Textures are key elements of all of Rottenberg’s films and installations. She responds to her environment with a stronger focus on the physicality of objects, than on their purely visual qualities. Experiencing her work often involves seeing and hearing the impact of one surface material upon another; the thud of a ball of soft dough against a flimsy piece of wood; the whirring of simple machinery; the squelch of ingredients in the process of becoming commercial products. Cheap aesthetics and the everyday are recurrent themes in Rottenberg’s work. As sculptural objects, these textures gain a new significance, even as they retain some of the associations of the low-end and makeshift. Rottenberg hones in on her perpetual fascination for how day-to-day textures are perceived, felt, ignored and lived with. As independent panels, these structures push beyond the boundary of the mundane and assert themselves as aesthetic objects. The democratic and the everyday – that which is seen to have no particular function beyond merely blending in – has been distinguished and made noteworthy.
Single channel video installation
Duration 7 min.
Dimensions variable Courtesy Julia Stoschek Foundation e.v., Düsseldorf
Installed in a specially-designed viewing room made of low-grade plywood, the film Dough is reached by walking through an extended low-ceilinged corridor. The cheap makeshift aesthetic of this space is echoed in the film itself, where narrow rooms are connected via holes in the floors and walls, creating a sinister cross between highstreet beauty salon and sweatshop. In an elaborate process involving tears, air and pollen, the four uniformed women in this film use a primitive set of machinery designed to make dough rise. The dough is carefully kneaded and transported from chamber to chamber, and the final product eventually emerges as an unremarkable vacuum-packed lump.
Through the surreal and disconcerting production methods, and the discrepancy between the input effort and the output value, Dough elaborates on the complex relationship between the women themselves and the product they make. In the semi-industrial setting of this film, the lengths of dough handled by these women seem to take on the characteristics of their own flesh; something to be managed and tended, revered, controlled and pampered. The particular physiques of the women playing the factory workers begin to blend with the product itself, causing product and identity, production and result, to merge, destabilizing the meaning and value of labor. In Dough, the human physicality invested and contained in the process of labor and its structures, is being directly transported into the product, as intimate energies and fluids are excreted by the workers and transformed into a single saleable unit.