Mika Rottenberg concocts eminently imaginative videos and installations, from which new, strange worlds – only slightly askew from our own – are born. Her videos are often initially presented within custom-built installations that mirror the sets, props, and characters from within the videos themselves, extending the reality of the moving images beyond the screen. Starring a variety of people who independently market and perform their unique physical qualities – for example, Heather Foster, a champion bodybuilder; Queen Raqui, a “squasher” and activist within the plus-size community; and Tall Kat, a six-foot-nine woman from Arizona – Rottenberg’s videos compose a fanciful factory of characters who manipulate materials in an absurdist parallel to the Fordist assembly line. Referencing the inventive and compelling storytelling of the infomercials that have inspired her, Rottenberg explains, “it’s magic – finding little solutions for things that were not necessarily a problem.”
Presented on High Line Channel 14, Bowls Balls Souls Holes is inspired by what the artist terms “the production of luck,” and is set primarily inside a bingo hall in Harlem that Rottenberg frequented during her research for the piece. Featuring regulars of the bingo hall – primarily women – as well as Gary “Stretch” Turner, the Guinness World Record holder for the most clothespins pinned to one’s face (one hundred sixty-one), the video imagines different possibilities for what it could mean to produce – and consume – luck. As if trapped in a dream – part reality, part impossibility – Bowls Balls Souls Holes circles around labyrinthine sets, always turning a new corner that hovers between strange and familiar, where the uncanny becomes the norm.
Photos by Timothy Schenck.