Cover image: Mika Rottenberg, NoNoseKnows, 2015


Mika Rottenberg: Social Surrealism

Louisiana Channel

  • 22 October 2018
  • Camera Klaus Elmer Edited by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen Produced by Christian Lund © Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017

In Mika Rottenberg's dreamlike video works, bodies become a means of production creating what the artist calls 'a spiritual kind of Marxism.' The rise of the internet was a revelation to Rottenberg, who discovered that this was the optimal way of searching for people.

‘It really starts with falling in love with someone’s appearance – or the way that they carry their appearance – and then we meet. It’s like a blind date.’ A lot of the characters that Rottenberg uses are quite large or tall, and she feels that this is exactly what makes them confident in their own bodies: ‘I think we all feel strange inside our body, and trapped inside our body, and to work with someone who has an extraordinary size or something about them … it’s inspiring how they learn to inhabit their body.’

‘I am just obsessed with the way things are made, how things take their final shape,’ Rottenberg says. ‘If you peel the skin from that you see all these processes.’

Installation view, 'Mika Rottenberg', Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria, 2018 © Mika Rottenberg. Photo: Markus Tretter

Mika Rottenberg, Lips (Study #3), 2016 © Mika Rottenberg. Photo: Markus Tretter

The different states of material and how nothing is really solid is at the core of many of her projects. For example in ‘Tsss Tsss Tsss’ (2014) – an installation with an air-conditioner, where water from condensation drips into a hot frying pan on a hotplate, making the drops sizzle and evaporate. Rottenberg feels that we in our age of the internet are moving away from physicality: ‘There’s so much de-materialization. But in the end we’re all made of materials.’ In this way, works like ‘Tsss Tsss Tsss’ gives shape to the shapeless – to things that are hard to grasp – in order to be able to look at and reflect on them. Rottenberg’s work is a constant conversation between herself and what she is making, and because she is aware that she often changes her mind, she likes to ‘fence it in’ in order to make decisions that she can’t change. Moreover, though she doesn't consider her work to be political, she feels that being an artist is a way for her to be involved and to ‘interfere with the system’ and ‘negotiate reality.’