‘I’m Not Really Interested in Objects’: See How Rotisserie Chicken Commercials Inspired Mika Rottenberg’s Otherworldly Videos

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "New York Close Up" film, "Mika Rottenberg and the Amazing Invention Factory." © Art21, Inc. 2013.

Mika Rottenberg‘s videos are weird. The Argentina-born, Israel-raised artist creates surreal, often grotesque videos that build fictional backstories for all manner of real and imagined objects—everything from maraschino cherries to sweat-infused tissues—all of which will be on display in her first solo museum show in the United States, “Easypieces,” opening this summer at the New Museum.

Before she moved to the US, where she now lives and works, Rottenberg had never seen an infomercial, and she immediately fell in love with early stars of the format, Ron Popeil, the “Kitchen Magician” who’s catchphrase, “set it and forget it” inspired thousands of consumers to buy rotisserie chicken-cookers.

In an exclusive interview with Art21, Rottenberg describes her videos as “experiments.” Speaking in the program’s New York Close Up segment, she says, “I’m not really interested in objects. I’m more interested in the whole operation around it.”

Production still from the Art21 "New York Close Up" film, "Mika Rottenberg and the Amazing Invention Factory." © Art21, Inc. 2013.

Production still from the Art21 “New York Close Up” film, “Mika Rottenberg and the Amazing Invention Factory.” © Art21, Inc. 2013.

Rottenberg’s videos amount to sly commentaries on the economics of labor. She hires women who make a living off of their bodies and performing fetishistic acts, like squashing, extreme body building, and selling photographs of themselves—people she says “own the means of production.” The women who populate her videos are the center of factory-style laboratories, powering machines with their legs, or creating objects from their own body parts.

Because many of these women are performers in a particular niche, their bodies are often considered abnormal. In Rottenberg’s works, strange bodies are seen as the magical, exceptional machines that power her “Amazing Invention Factory.”

Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. “Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces” is on view at the New Museum from June 26–September 15, 2019.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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