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Mika Rottenberg's "Sneeze" 

The New York-based artist's solo exhibition at Tai Kwun Contemporary included four video works from 2012 to 2019, surveyed together for the first time in Asia.

Theoretically, we should not exist. According to physicists, the Big Bang created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. When the two met, they should have annihilated each other. And yet here we are, surrounded by stuff. Entering Mika Rottenberg’s solo exhibition “SNEEZE” is to step inside a feverish reflection of the world, choked in an excess of materials, the sources of which appear to be magic.


In the video NoNoseKnows (2015), a woman’s sneezes become plates of glistening noodles and rice. To stimulate her production, a female worker, sitting among laborers at a distant Chinese pearl farm, winds a crank that powers a fan, which blows flower pollen into her face. Watching the transformation of her excretions into consumables, I was reminded of surrealist Georges Batailles’s problematization of society’s inability to expend energy in truly meaningless ways. This creates the cancerous capitalist loop of incessant production, based on use value. 

Yet, Rottenberg averts explicit anti-capitalist critique. In the film Spaghetti Blockchain (2019), she even indulges viewers with ASMR, aided by materials such as luscious puffs of candy floss melting into a grill and wobbling jelly rolls. Perhaps these sensorially soothing scenes provide audiences with respite from constantly creating use and meaning (for those who don’t have to write about it for their jobs, anyway). And in the act of simply watching, viewers honor their subsistence in a universe that is gratuitous in the first place. CC


This article was originally published on as part of a roundtable review.

Chloe Chu

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