From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Genevieve Quick’s consideration of performances by Mika Rottenberg and Shana Moulton. The author notes: “As early media artists and feminists have done, Rottenberg and Moulton construct imaginative narratives that probe the unsettling relationship between the body, screens, technology, and contemporary life.” This article was originally published on October 15, 2014.
Mika Rottenberg’s and Shana Moulton’s absurdist and surreal bubble worlds grapple with embodiment through mechanization and mediated imagery. For SEVEN (2011), Rottenberg collaborated with Jon Kessler to create a chakra “milking” laboratory in New York that coordinated with a sub-Saharan African cohort. In Whispering Pines 10 (2011), a collaboration between Moulton and Nick Hallett, the ill and homebound character Cynthia uses technology as a platform for imagination and healing. In these two projects, both teams of artists mix performance, video, and technology to probe the body as therapeutic or ailed. Moreover, both works lightheartedly approach collective and individual healing through narratives and multimedia representations.
Commissioned for Performa 11 (2011), Rottenberg and Kessler produced SEVEN at Nicole Klagsbrun Project Space. The artists mix references to spas, factories, and laboratories as places that attend to, are dependent upon, and investigate the body. The performance begins with seven actors dressed in white terrycloth robes waiting in a room, as if at the spa. With the regimented timing of a factory or laboratory, the actors punch a time clock and have a specific chakra extracted from them eight times a day, four days a week, for three weeks. In another portion of the gallery, the charismatic scientist “Empress Asia” attends to an elaborate laboratory with beakers, test tubes, and mysterious machines and fluids. At the heart of the performance is a bicycle-like contraption that, when pedaled, powers the “chakra juicer,” a glass-enclosed sauna where a sweating actor sits in lotus position. The subjects are panned across by a scientific-looking unit housing a camera with a vertical series of lights in the seven chakra colors (violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red). The device somehow culls the chakra from the actors while the video camera records the process. As some actors’ bodies exert energy to power the mechanism, others sweat to create a circular process of physical labor and production. This physicality adds to the project’s intensity and duration, which pushes the actors’ physical and, possibly, psychic endurance.