Mika Rottenberg: Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery

By Barliant, Claire | Artforum International, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Mika Rottenberg: Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery


Barliant, Claire, Artforum International


The blood-chilling term efficiency expert was coined in the early twentieth century by mechanical engineer and management consultant Frederick Taylor, who famously timed factory employees to encourage them to work faster. Mika Rottenberg's videos of women performing mindless, repetitive tasks might do Taylor proud if they didn't also reveal his system's utter lack of humanity. In Rottenberg's latest video, Dough, 2005-2006, a six-minute loop, the eponymous product is manufactured via an obscure and complicated process that requires the use of a fluorescent lamp and an inhaler, as well as an endless supply of vacuum packs, gerbera daisies, and human tears.

As in an earlier Rottenberg work called Mary's Cherries, 2003, the factory is divided into seven chambers with holes leading from one to the next. The next-to-uppermost room is occupied by a colossally fat woman wearing a drab brown uniform monogrammed with the name Raqui. Raqui is a multitasker: Not only does she route the dough down to the other three women, but her tears appear to contain a magical catalyst that causes the dough to rise. Raqui kneads the dough into a rope (read: umbilical cord) and slowly lowers it to her colleague, who, not incidentally, happens to be almost seven feet tall and extremely skinny. The dough is then guided gently past a fluorescent lamp before being passed to the two women on a lower level. This pair separates it into pieces on a conveyor belt. In order to generate more dough, Raqui sniffs a bouquet of flowers that kick-starts her hay fever (one of the women on the second-to-lowest level rotates a hand lever that operates a small fan, which apparently helps blow the pollen up Raqui's nose). As she sniffles, large tears roll down her imposing bulk through another small hole in the floor, and the steam that appears when they land causes the dough to rise. Raqui takes a puff on an inhaler, pauses a minute to regain her composure, and the process begins again. …

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