Mika Rottenberg's 'Easypieces' at the MCA transcends imagination

Mika Rottenberg's  'Easypieces' at the MCA transcends imagination
Mika Rottenberg, NoNoseKnows (still), 2015. Video with sound and sculptural installation, 22 min, dimensions variable Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Can something be disgusting and seductive at the same time?

That is how artist Mika Rottenberg describes her art which is currently featured in a solo exhibition "Easypieces" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Mika Rottenberg. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Mika Rottenberg. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The video heavy exhibition showcases a series of Rottenberg's strange yet alluring films filled with sounds such as rustling paper, the crackle of frying food, voices and more that can induce the brain-tingling sensation known as autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR.

You can find ASMR videos trending on YouTube. But what is ASMR? ASMR has been said to bring about a relaxing, often sedative sensation.

The videos in the exhibition are accompanied by 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, Finger 2018. Installation view, Mika Rottenberg, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Miro Kuzmanovic

Mika Rottenberg, Finger 2018. Installation view, Mika Rottenberg, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Photo: Miro Kuzmanovic

One of the videos featured in the exhibition, "NoNoseKnows," features a 6-foot-4 fetish performer who calls herself Bunny Glamazon, sitting in a windowless room above a Chinese pearl factory, smelling bouquets of flowers provoking an allergic reaction that causes her nose to grow to Pinocchio-like proportions (see photo at top of post) causing her to sneeze out plates of noodles.

The 22-minute 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. 

Elsewhere, tables of women delicately cut and place an irritant into the shells of living oysters while another team sorts the pearls.

Strings of pearls and pearl bunnies appear at the beginning of the exhibition. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Strings of pearls and pearl bunnies appear at the beginning of the exhibition. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Using satire to address current issues and aspects of production, consumption, and labor. Rottenberg's Easypieces, are not necessarily as easy as one may think.

Rottenberg's work is inspired by theoretical physicist Richard Feynman's book Six Easy Pieces (1994)--introduces the fundamentals of physics to the general public by connecting the everyday, mass-produced items we consume without thinking to matters of the universe beyond our control.

Mika Rottenberg, Spaghetti Blockchain, 2019. © Mika Rottenberg Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Mika Rottenberg, Spaghetti Blockchain, 2019. © Mika Rottenberg Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

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. 

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 explores human attempts to control and explain the material world. Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (220 E. Chicago Ave.) from October 2, 2019 to March 8, 2020.
 
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.

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