NoNoseKnows (50 Kilos variant)

Mika Rottenberg Argentine

Not on view

A video installation first shown in the 2015 Venice Biennale, NoNoseKnows is both an absurdist fantasy and a feminist polemic. Its subject is the global economy, an exploitative system that extracts wealth from natural resources and laboring bodies, in this case, the bodies of Chinese women especially. The video unfolds across two sites: a custom-designed set in New York and an enormous pearl-making facility in Zhuji, China, which the artist first visited in 2014, recalling, "It was sick but also beautiful and amazing . . . It kind of draws you in, even though it’s really pretty perverted what has to be done to a living thing to force it to create a pearl." Through assiduous editing, which cuts together footage from both sites, interspersing it with scenes from around Zhuji’s worker housing, Rottenberg knits together these far-flung locations, which form the backdrop to a story at once factual and fanciful. Inside the factory, women are involved in the difficult, delicate, repetitive task of producing pearls, first by cultivating them, a process that involves seeding oysters with pieces of mussels and, second, by extracting the pearls and sorting them by type and size. Inside the set, which appears in the video to be an extension of the factory, Bunny Glamazon performs another kind of routinized labor, this one reminiscent of the sort of white collar, administrative work that often falls to women. The tasks themselves are bizarre and without clear use value. Within the context of the video, all of these actors serve as both protagonists and, just as importantly, as catalysts. Each does strange things that make other strange things happen, often to one another, resulting in an assembly line of cause and effect. At one point, for instance, a Chinese woman responds to a prompt from Bunny by turning a handle that powers a fan, which in turn blows pollen from a flower into Bunny’s nose, prompting her to sneeze. Perhaps the most important catalyst in NoNoseKnows isn’t a human being at all, in fact, but a sensation: irritation. Indeed, the sequencing of the video mirrors the creation of pearls, which result from the almost alchemical transformation of an irritant into jewels. (Other types of sensations—physical, auditory, and visual—play a prominent role in the artist’s video, too.) Counter-intuitively, perhaps, the ecosystem (or economy) that Rottenberg creates here is not only absurd and ridiculous but also functional and, to a certain extent, believable. Indeed, what distinguishes NoKnowsNose from Rottenberg’s earlier work is its depiction of an actual relationship of causality: the industrial production of cultured pearls and the cycle of employment and exploitation that this system both requires and precipitates. Rottenberg’s video is meant to be either projected on a wall or displayed on a monitor inside an enclosed space, either a dedicated gallery or a room constructed to the artist’s specifications. It is accompanied by a 50-kilo bag of cultured pearls, which are displayed outside the entrance, purely as a prop. Several variants (as distinct from editions) of NoNoseKnows exist: each one is unique, with a specific set of display conditions and accouterments.

NoNoseKnows (50 Kilos variant), Mika Rottenberg (Argentine, born 1976), Single-channel digital video, color, sound, 22 min., commercial woven polypropylene bag, and 50 kilos cultured pearls

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