Mika Rottenberg b. 1976, Buenos Aires
Video sculpture, with sound, 7 min., with drop ceiling, wood, sandbags, and ceiling fan
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the Young Collectors Council, 2006
Labor has been the primary theme of Mika Rottenberg’s fantastical video installations. The artist stages and films absurdist assembly lines in which women’s bodies are harnessed toward consumer production. In several works, female bodybuilders and contortionists are shown engaged in mindlessly repetitive physical tasks, providing moisture for scented towelettes with their sweat or making maraschino cherries from their clipped fingernails. Dough (2006) depicts a team of women pulling a rope of dough through a series of claustrophobic factory compartments. At the center of the Rube Goldberg–like system, an obese woman kneads and directs the dough. When a bouquet of flowers is placed before her, a chain reaction is set off: the flowers produce allergic tears, which fall to the floor and generate steam, which in turn causes the dough to rise before it is finally packaged. Equating industrial and bodily processes, the journey of the fleshy dough alludes to digestion, excretion, and birth. Dough evinces the influence of 1970s feminist body art and also recalls Matthew Barney’s elaborate sets and surreal physical processes. Like Barney, Rottenberg gives sculptural form to her videos; here, the projection appears in a cramped wooden room, its outer supports weighed down by doughy sandbags.