Mika Rottenberg

(Argentina, Israel 1976 – )

Lips (Study #3)

Not on display
Further information

Through a small hole in the wall of a gallery, a pair of fleshy lips protrude. Moving closer and leaning in, one sees light flickering between them. A puff of what looks like smoke emerges from the lips – as if some bodily or industrial activity is taking place behind the wall. Peering into the cavity, the source of this steaminess reveals itself – a mirror box that holds a hilarious view of bodies working, labouring, performing. Through lurid stippled walls protrude bodily bits and pieces: ponytails, mouths, tongues, and fleshy buttocks. They jiggle and spurt as if in a peepshow that’s both exhibitionist and absurdist. And the longer one looks, the more one is conscious of behaving voyeuristically in public. Mika Rottenberg is an artist who often invites us to peer behind the scenes, into cramped, strange, backstage spaces where bizarre forms of labour play out. The strange acts of production that her performers take part in are comedic, first and foremost, but they also prompt reflection on the larger absurdity of the processes that make our (first) world go round: the way the hidden labour of people very far from us keeps us fed, clothed, supported. This work by Rottenberg continues this exploration and connects it directly with the ‘work’ of art, by puncturing the skin of the revered ‘white cube’ and revealing something weird behind the scenes. Making art and generating pleasure for its viewers, Rottenberg suggests, is not a lofty or pure endeavour. It is sticky, impure and often absurd work, which makes willing voyeurs of us all.

Installation, Time-based art
single channel video installation, colour, sound
duration: 00:01:28 min
Sydney Modern Foundation Purchase 2019
Accession number
© Mika Rottenberg