Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler, Seven: A Performa commission for Performa 11 @ Nicole Klagsbrun Project

I’ve been a fan for a while of Mika Rottenberg. Her last video Squeeze that debuted at Mary Boone Gallery was easily the best thing that she has done. She has been good for so long that I keep expecting her work to fall off, but somehow she keeps coming back with video after video of her very specific world of bodies and production, all the while managing to push the topic further and further. In Squeeze it was the first time in her work that the outside world got a more prominent role. For the first time, the production of her interior world of jerry-rigged contraptions driven by the bodies of various shape and size was matched by a visually stunning and equally odd real world production of rubber. A production, which is so unbelievable and beautiful, you almost have a sneaky suspicion that generations of Indian rubber harvesters must have been esthetically influenced by Rottenberg art practice.

But Rottenberg might finally be hitting a wall. Seven is nice if you’ve seen her work, I am guessing, like me you had a little bit of a desire to win a golden ticket into the factory. Well, Seven lets you into her world in real time, and there are some nice unexpected moments, like the labor all sitting between shifts of powering the harnessing of sweat, by relaxing on plastic folding chairs making small talk among themselves about picking up their kids from school and where they’re going for lunch. The small talk made me very aware that no longer is the absurd and often unpleasant looking production line making a product that is clearly not designed for me but now the labor was happening for my immediate entertainment. Granted the worst of the labor involved a casual ride on a stationary bike followed by some time sitting in a bathing suit sweating while art types watched. Not exactly like an Abramović piece but I still felt complicit. Which was an effect and a yet to be explored vein in Rottenberg’s works.

But instead of the end product of the video and real-time scientist operated giant machine being hair growth tonic, a bloc of garbage or tropical wipes, our uncomfortableness as viewers is rewarded with the pleasure of Africans on the other end of the production line getting a sunset over a desert plain followed by a cartoon rainbow and birds borrowed from a skittles commercial. Which is a little bit of a let down, after watching an old man peddling a stationary bike in a bathrobe to harness the sweat of an attractive women in a bikini. I’ve been made aware that my presence is the cause of this, and Rottenberg can cash in on my own self-consciousness, that the guilt felt when you come back to your hotel room to find the housekeeper making up your bed, you know its their job but you still feel kind of like a douche. Same here, but before the awkwardness can fester, the hotel comes along and throws a party for the staff, which allows to walk away feeling good about ourselves. Also apparently Jon Kessler had something to do with this, but it just looked like a Rottenberg video to me.

Already down
Nicole Klagsbrun Project (534 W 24th St. Btw. 10th & 11th Aves.)


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