Palais de Tokyo presents a major exhibition by Mika Rottenberg (b. 1976 in Buenos Aires, lives in New York). In her work, the artist portrays absurd situations of assembly-line work, often performed by women using their own body as both a tool and a raw material. Captivating narratives, where reality appears distorted by a fictional world while fantasy and humour vie with weirdness, her videos are projected within immersive installations that extend their universe.
For her second solo show in France, nearly ten years after an initial exhibition at La maison rouge (Paris) in 2008, Mika Rottenberg has chosen to revisit several of the video installations that consolidated her international reputation. The show will feature NoNoseKnows (2015) – lauded at the 56th Venice Biennale – Bowls Balls Souls Holes (2014), SEVEN (2011) and Squeeze (2010), while presenting a selection of recent and new works.
In Mika Rottenberg’s work, the bodies deployed have various physical eccentricities, setting them apart from the norm and current canons. It usually features women, whose unusual characteristics are extolled, commodified or advertised online to be utilised, and who inspire the artist’s scenarios.
Some are bodybuilders, others are plus-sized: “I choose people because of who they are and how they carry themselves; I make the work around them. I will probably never ask someone to fit into my work or to act for me. Instead, I make my work fit them, in many cases literally.” 1
Over the last fifteen years, Mika Rottenberg has developed a method that combines video production and installations, drawings and sculptures. She creates immersive environments that serve to showcase her films, helping to blur the boundaries between fantasy and reality. “I want the spaces in the video to have a physical impact on the viewer. Once you enter a space that is a little awkward, you become more aware of where you are. You have a different relationship with what’s on the screen.” 2
Working tools in several of the films presented at Palais de Tokyo, the bodies of the characters are fully mobilised by various actions performed on the assembly-line, located on a multi-story premises, where they appear cramped. The materials being processed – intriguing to say the least – ultimately lead to the production of often absurd and useless objects. “In Rottenberg’s universe, production consists of low-tech but strenuous manual labour such as rolling, kneading, clipping, chopping or excreting (i.e., crying and sweating).” 3
Moreover, the body appears in a fragmented and humorous way when a tongue or a pair of buttocks pass through a wall, as in Squeeze (2010). At Palais de Tokyo, the labyrinthine installation designed by the artist is further enhanced by the addition of several sculptures. Throughout the gallery space, they continuously re-enact the ordinary minutiae of daily life: the sound of a drop of water falling onto a hotplate or the swishing of a ponytail – as well as works specially produced for the exhibition.
Curator: Daria de Beauvais
1 Mika Rottenberg, conversation with Christopher Bedford, in Mika Rottenberg. The Production of Luck, Gregory R. Miller & Co. in association with the Rose Art Museum, 2014, p.187
2 Mika Rottenberg quoted by Thea Ballard, “Parallel Logic”, in Blouin Modern Painters, May 2015, p.65
3 Julia Bryan-Wilson, “Mika Rottenberg’s Video Spaces.”, in Mika Rottenberg. The Production of Luck, Gregory R. Miller & Co. in association with the Rose Art Museum, 2014, p.117