If the exchange of ideas and goods had a sound, what would it be? It may be an egg sizzling violently on a hot grill. Or a set of hands delivering puffs of pigment to a balding man’s head with a vintage atomizer. Or a hand spanking a shaking tower of turquoise gelatin.
At least that’s the case in Mika Rottenberg’s sublimely bizarre video installations.
The artist, who was born in Argentina, raised in Israel and is now based in New York, has a knack for taking the invisible systems that govern our lives – ideological, economic and cultural – and illustrating them in a way that you can practically taste it. You don’t so much watch a video of Mika Rottenberg as you absorb it with all your senses.
You can expect those senses to be stimulated to the max in a pair of shows currently playing in Los Angeles. At Hauser & Wirth, Rottenberg presents a solo exhibition, now in its final two weeks, featuring a number of video and installation pieces that appeared in the traveling exhibition “Easypieces”, which originated at New York’s New Museum in 2019. In addition, the artist presents this Saturday the American premiere of his first feature film, “Remote”, produced in collaboration with filmmaker Mahyad Tousi, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
This bizarre image, which was filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, centers on a woman named Unoaku (played by the magnetic Okwui Okpokwasili) who comes into contact with a curious coterie of peers online. Unoaku is confined to his home for reasons that remain unknown. All we know is that she logs into work via a futuristic headset and every afternoon she slams a pot out her window, much the same way people do in cities like New York. hit pots in honor of healthcare workers at the start of the pandemic. In the evening, she settles down to watch her favorite interactive show, hosted by a Korean dog groomer – a show that begins to reveal strange things about Unoaku’s place in the world.
“Remote” marries bright, deeply saturated color palettes – moss green carpet, exuberant floral wallpaper, a fuzzy red lounge chair – with the unsettling sense that different truths lurk beneath the cheerful surfaces.
In this way, the film evokes many themes of Rottenberg’s early video works.
In 2019’s 18-minute “Spaghetti Blockchain,” shown at Hauser & Wirth, she juxtaposes a bewildering array of footage: a tuvan throat singer leads into CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which continues through industrial halls filled with servers computers. , which gives way to a hand scraping a block of wet clay with a small bristle brush, which leads to a combine harvesting potatoes from the dirt.
If everything seems totally random, it’s not. The part is bound by its own internal logic. There are synergies of patterns and sounds: the furrows in the wet clay allude to the potato field; the vibratory notes of the throat singer are echoed by the hum of computer processors.
In key scenes, the viewer is confronted with a strange mechanical structure, shaped like a hexagon, which delivers a satisfying click with each rotation – each cell revealing an eerie scene within, such as the Fried Egg and the Jell- O trembling. The cells all seem to resonate with each other as well as with other video footage, which loops constantly.
Everything relates to everything else; there is no beginning, no end and no central node. It’s as if Rottenberg had converted the concept of a distributed network into analog form – and filmed it.
And she did it with a nod to the over-the-top aesthetic of social media: there are colors popping and sounds weaving their way into your deepest lizard brain. In an interview with art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson for the “Easypieces” catalog, Rottenberg described herself as obsessed with the category of videos deemed “most satisfying” on YouTube, which often depict acts of painting. , crush, paint, spread, pick up and cut.
“I really wanted to start my own ASMR factory,” she said.
Another work, titled “Cosmic Generator”, from 2017, hits closer to home. In 26 minutes, Rottenberg takes us between the American and Mexican border towns of Calexico and Mexicali, and a famous wholesale market in Yiwu, China. They are colonies linked by trade, but also by history: Mexicali is where many Chinese immigrants who helped build California’s railroads ended up at the turn of the 20th century after being driven out by the anti-Asian legislation in the United States.
Rottenberg approaches this story in a unique way. Images of Chinese restaurants in Mexicali, with their flamboyant architecture and royal names – Imperial Garden, China Royal Salute – give way to scenes in Yiwu. A mechanical maneki-neko cat, constantly waving from a cluttered restaurant counter, leads to a stall full of similar cats at the Chinese wholesaler. Businessmen in suits and a guy in a taco suit are crawling through an underground tunnel. Food and capital cross the border; people, not so much.
Rottenberg takes tracking globalization seriously, but she’s not serious about it. “Cosmic Generator” is a tour of the strange – which begins with the viewer entering Hauser & Wirth’s gallery through a tunnel designed by the artist.
Ultimately, his images are much more than images. They are feelings. The water gurgles. The bulbs are broken. The viewer is immersed in rabbit holes that mysteriously appear under the dome of a Chinese restaurant’s culinary specialty. In an artist talk for the Museum of Contemporary Art Magasin III in Stockholm in 2013, Rottenberg said that in choosing or creating the environments she filmed, she wanted to make the viewer think about what it would make of them. touch or lick it.
It’s not far from the base. Although I would say that rather than licking the work, it’s more like you’ve been licked by it. And after that, things are never the same again.
Where: Hauser & Wirth, 901 E. Third St., Los Angeles
When: Until October 2
Remote: A film by Mika Rottenberg & Mahyad Tousi
Where: Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
When: Premieres Sept. 24 at 4 p.m. (RSVP required); after which the film will screen three times a day until October 30, no RSVP necessary