As an observer of Mika Rottenberg’s works, one is struck by the fact that it is always women with various physical oddities who play the leading roles of her tales. And it is precisely because of their peculiar appearances that they are chosen for these parts. Typically, they are tremendously overweight, extremely tall, very muscular, have long fingernails or, as in Cheese, have unusually long hair. Rottenberg is inspired by stories, in which women use their bodies as commercial products – especially women who advertise their qualities online. Rottenberg’s video installations take place somewhere between reality and fiction in what seems like absurdly imaginative and claustrophobic micro-universes, consisting of working environments such as factories, farming communities and other production-based locations. Here, women perform hard, physical work through absurd actions, using obscure tools. The main character manually controls bizarre machine constructions, either by pedalling, digging, pushing, squeezing, crying or sweating. As in a cogwheel, every movement is part of the progression, and all details are blown up to extreme proportions. Smells and sounds seem strikingly present; one can almost sense the grass and hear the sound of the characters breathing, of the sweat dripping and of the milk drops falling into the tin bucket.
The video installation Cheese portrays a society of women in rural environments, who, amongst other things, work with cheese production. In this work, Rottenberg creates a humoristic insight into an otherwise closed farming community, in which they live from hand to mouth. Here, the viewer follows six women dressed in virginal, white dresses, who live and work on a farm under primitive, yet idyllic conditions, surrounded by bleating goats, crowing roosters and jumping rabbits. The film’s universe consists of a circular, labyrinth-like home created by rough wooden constructions, which will be physically present in the exhibition. All of the six women have beautiful and extremely long hair, which they utilise in all kinds of ways; for example for luring their animals back into their fold. From their hair, they extract milk from which they create miraculous remedies. These remedies are then put up for sale, and the hair comes to represent their livelihood and pride, requiring odd initiatives and tremendous trouble to maintain. For instance, when the women go to bed, they need to attach their hair to hooks or let it hang loosely down into a hole in the ground, dug out for this very purpose. Rottenberg’s fictionalisation is based on a true story about the longhaired women (The Sutherland sisters) from the 1880’s, who created a preparation meant for preventing hair loss. Apart from the mechanisms of production, Rottenberg is occupied with bodily creations, which are then turned commercial – as is the case with the women’s production of hair and milk. Cheese has earlier been exhibited at The Whitney Museum in New York.
This exhibition follows Den Frie’s wish to present our guests with new and interesting perspectives on current subjects. Thus, we wish to host exhibitions that give our guests the opportunity to experience international contemporary art, taking its starting point in the possibilities and challenges of exchanging ideas, information and ways of being in a globalised world.