We’re a gluttonous species, us humans. All we want is stuff. Stuff to fill our flats with, stuff to wear, stuff to stuff our faces with. The whole world is geared
towards making stuff, selling stuff and buying stuff. Pretty sure that’s the first thing you learn in economics class.
Argentinian artist Mika Rottenberg knows all about stuff, capitalism, consumerism and all that business. Her show here at the brand new Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art is rammed full of videos and installations that needle, twist and poke at economics, consumerism and commodities.
One film finds rows of Chinese women sorting pearls, in turn powering a wheel which puffs flower pollen at a woman with hay fever; every time she sneezes, she produces a plate of noodles. It’s a cycle of production for the sake of consumption where women are used and exploited. Again, it’s just economics, and it happens over and over in Rottenberg’s films here, whether it’s a woman hawking her wares along the US/Mexico border or female wrestlers forming a production line that turns fingernails into maraschino cherries. It all just repeats and repeats.
A lot of care has been taken here. You enter the pearl film through a pearl shop, the border film through a tunnel, a film about bingo via a giant rotating bingo machine. It’s smart, it frames the films and sucks you into their worlds.
Not going to lie though, I preferred the installations to the films. An air conditioner steadily drips water into a pot plant, a disembodied ponytail flicks out of the wall, water trickles onto a series of searingly hot frying pans, fizzing and burbling. They’re all surreal economic non-sequiturs, constant feedback loops. They show the ceaselessness, the futility, the circular nature of selling, buying, using and discarding.
Rottenberg has created a body of work that’s funny, surreal, confrontational and has a point. What a combo! It’s brilliant. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to chuck out all my stuff and become a monk.