Mika Rottenberg: Spaghetti Blockchain @ Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco
Mika Rottenberg’s films evoke one “WTF” and “LOL” after another, so many that I was literally bowled over and slipped off a bench in the darkened installation room of NoNoseKnows—head over heels for the artist’s dazzling, maximalist visuals. Spectacular sneezes, spinning sparkles, and oozing shapes are signature players in Mika Rottenberg’s oddly sensual video installations. We’ve enjoyed her past exhibitions in New York at PS1, Chicago’s MCA, and the ICA in Boston, and finally, her first West Coast survey was welcomed this year by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, an intimate gem of a space in San Francisco.
Three of Rottenberg’s most iconic films invite you to relax into metaphorical, hypnotizing journeys through unimaginable portals—one gallery even has floor pillows for those prone to falling off benches. Rottenberg’s mostly silent films transport you to otherworldly scenarios where smelling flowers and sneezing spaghetti (or rabbits) is an occupation, often backed by hypnotizing ASMR soundscape layers to relax your logical mind and draw you further into these bizarre worlds. With magnetizing colors, each screenshot could be a painting. Shown collectively, Rottenberg’s work transforms the mundane into magic when viewed through her creative, extraordinary lens. Her wordless narratives reveal delicate, universal interconnectedness, inviting you to fill in the blanks with your own wild imagination: All you need is a high tolerance for absurdity and a love for the surreal. Also included in the exhibit are Rottenberg’s funky, interactive kinetic sculptures with bike-powered, bobbing ponytails, inviting you to participate in the weirdness. —Kristin Farr