With a great exuberance of surreal humour, Argentinian artist Rottenberg explores serious and disastrous issues of global consumerism and dehumanising labour. Assuming a deadpan style, her filmwork concentrates on elaborately complex machinations of production processes, pushing her imagery far past absurdity to make sharp points about the distortions between production and consumption, and the manipulation of the human entangled within the merciless gears (Rube Goldberg certainly is a spirit guide).
Matter transfers from one state to the next: fingernails alchemise into Marascino cherries, pearl cultivators pedal wheels that release pollen into a hay fever sufferer’s nose who then sneezes out plates of noodles; in another piece, businesspeople sneeze out rabbits; an oesophageal tunnel connects streetcart vendors along the US/Mexican border with workers at a Chinese plastic commodities market who seem all but consumed by the sheer scale of the cheap and tacky produce peddled.
Suggestions of migrancy and economic exploitation proliferate, an entire class of people bound into thankless drudgery, no benefits. I will not soon forget the felicitous and effervescent movements of bubbles in NONOSEKNOWS, which in their freedom of form, switching effortlessly from the solid to the fluid, choosing the moment of their own extinguishment, mocks the humans within the same claustrophobic spaces, all too weighted by their own brutal physicality.
The show is carefully crafted and curated, the experience of each room extended to the ways in which a visitor arrives-thus, a tunnel in one instance, a pearl shop in another, a rotating door into another space unspooling a film about the dull desperations of the bingo hall. There are intriguing installations as well, including a slightly unsettling ponytail mounted onto a wall through a peephole, undulating wildly, releasing fierce speculation as to the unseen activity that may give rise to such agitation; a single finger with taloned nail emerging from the wall, forbidding and siren-like; in a darkened room, a series of frying pans sizzle in orchestral arrangement, the domestic suddenly untamed and sinister.
This is the inaugural show at this new campus space, formerly a bathhouse, and I appreciate that it hasn’t been entirely scrubbed of its erstwhile self-much of its civic and industrial veneer remains intact and integral, and much has been thoughtfully arranged as a gallery goer moves about, surprises at many turns (a piece mounted over a doorway, another over the stairs), which leaves no corner or angle devoid. Based on this opening project, I have high expectations for this to become a premier gallery space. The show has now closed, but please keep this shining new space in mind-the programme is very promising. Over on Instagram, I have posted video footage from the various films, the proper way to experience Rottenberg’s vision-the movement is essential.