Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presents a major exhibition by the Argentinian-Israeli artist Mika Rottenberg (b. 1976), showcasing two decades of her work. Spanning film, installation, sculpture and drawing, Rottenberg’s art can be seen as critical and absurd allegories of the human condition.
Artist(s) Mika Rottenberg
Curator Anders Kold
Venue Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
All images Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Markus Tretter.
In 2017, Louisiana co-produced Mika Rottenberg’s film Cosmic Generator, which premiered at Skulpturen Projekte Münster in Germany and today is part of Louisiana’s collection. The architecture of the work is a Chinese store of sorts, from which the film accelerates back and forth between a dusty town on the Mexican-American border and a gigantic wholesale market in China. Surprising scenarios lead us through tunnels and digital channels – straight through the Earth itself. All along, there is never any doubt that Rottenberg’s fantasies are reality-based.
Rottenberg’s contemporary fables mirror the state of the world and our ways of living and surviving in it. Truth and fiction intermingle. The exhibition’s title, Bowls Balls Souls Holes, is taken from one of her works and denotes the absurd and miraculous transformations presented in Rottenberg’s universe. Holes and portals are recurring images, representing openings to new connections between people and places in the world.
One big surreal hamster wheel
The exhibition alternates between big installations and insistently physical sculptures – works that move, emit smoke or invite museumgoers to push levers and pedals to activate machinery, whose humorous, absurd devices are directly linked to what we see in the films. Materialism is held up as a manifest component of reality, as the viewer is tasked with connecting ideas to baroque material effects and sounds.
Over the years, Rottenberg’s films have represented people off all kinds. Everyone is a link in the global production chain. The beat of Rottenberg’s editing and sound design whirls us into labyrinthine processes, where commodities are manufactured and conveyed in one big surreal hamster wheel. Alongside material abundance, Rottenberg’s work touches on abstract issues like freedom, luck, wealth and surplus time.
What are these scenarios of global capitalism intended to accomplish? One possible answer is that the portals expediting objects and people, and the Rube Goldberg devices that keep the activities and commodities flowing, might also be loopholes and launchpads for new ways of connecting people. Rottenberg’s works are thought models and designs, though without a master plan. Her art is a whimsical but deeply humanist project for a current and future world that had better come up with some good ideas for saving the planet, and for how we all can share it. In Rottenberg’s films, women are key agents. Their connections spell hope. All along, the artist’s free imagination is the basic ingredient. She provides no guidance. You have to make your own observations and tie up the loose ends yourself.