artist / participant
This fall, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces, a solo exhibition of the artist Mika Rottenberg featuring her newest video installation, Spaghetti Blockchain. Rottenberg creates immersive installations that invite audiences to step inside the absurdist environments that appear in her films, where nonsensical machines and assembly lines turn human output, such as a sneeze, into consumer goods ranging from cultured pearls to the brightly colored plastic items sold in Chinese superstores. Using satire to address current issues and aspects of production, consumption, and labor, Rottenberg explores human attempts to control and explain the material world. Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces is on view at the MCA from October 2, 2019 to March 8, 2020.
Rottenberg often presents her videos within sculptural environments that intensify the disorienting aspects of her work. Walls are covered in garlands of plastic flowers, while images of colored glass are projected onto the ceiling, and metal racks hold bags with the thousands of pearls that are seen in the video NoNoseKnows. This video investigates the process of cultured pearl manufacturing, where oysters are deliberately infected to produce pearls. The process is turned into a bizarre assembly line: a woman sniffs small bouquets, provoking an allergic reaction that causes her to sneeze out plates of noodles. Elsewhere, tables of women delicately cut and place an irritant into the shells of living oysters while another team sorts the pearls.
A centerpiece of the exhibition is Rottenberg's most recent work Spaghetti Blockchain, which shows the creation of a kaleidoscopic structure that transforms and inverts objects. The video weaves together images and sounds from vastly different sources: Tuvan throat singers in Siberia, the CERN antimatter factory, and a potato farm in Maine, among others. Like a blockchain--a series of records managed across many computers--the stories Rottenberg presents continuously feed into one another.
Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces is titled after the book Six Easy Pieces (1994), in which theoretical physicist Richard Feynman introduces the fundamentals of physics to the general public. Inspired by Feynman's work, Rottenberg connects the everyday, mass-produced items we consume without thinking to matters of the universe beyond our control.
Another work, Cosmic Generator, is filmed in two locations at opposite ends of the earth - a Chinese restaurant at the border in California, and a wholesale market in Yiwu, China. The video collapses distance and time to explore how the plastic products sold in the Yiwu Market circulate freely and instantly on the other side of the globe. Rottenberg shows how insignificant objects and practices are embedded in the world around them, creating an interdependent relationship between the industrial and the biological.
Also featured in the exhibition are some of Rottenberg's signature kinetic sculptures, including Lips (Study #3), Ponytail (Orange), Ceiling Fan Composition, and Finger, a piece that features a single finger extending out from a wall with a long fingernail painted to look like a galaxy.
Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces is curated by Margot Norton, curator at the New Museum, and its Chicago presentation is organized by Bana Kattan, the MCA's Barjeel Global Fellow.