Mika Rottenberg

Minus Yiwu



single-channel video,looped,ca.7’

Credit Line

Work commissioned by curator Nadja Argyropoulou for Polyeco Contemporary Art Initiative (PCAI), Greece

Object label

Shot in China, more precisely along the miles upon miles of
shops selling mostly Christmas ornaments and plastic toys
in the market of the city Yiwu, Rottenberg’s work comprises
an environment where the viewer is simultaneously placed
before and inside a peculiar, psychedelic setting of colorful
explosion and synthetic bliss. In the city where part of
the critical mass of western consumerism is manufactured
and made available along labyrinthine, grotesque corridors
stretching over hundreds of kilometers, materials are
monumentalized and vilipended in an orgy of availability and
tradability before being broken down and recycled by the
global public, its members’ imaginary, hearths and homes
and habits, in all corners of the world.
In this tide of perpetual festivity, which rivals the bizarre
dystopias of science fiction, working people appear
apathetic, trapped in a contemporary myth with no
characters or plot, attuned to the screens of computer
terminals or mobile phones, engrossed in some other,
dematerialized reality and its continual promise. As has been
pointed out by one of the managers of such markets, “Sitting
here every day, being able to look at all these beautiful
decorations, is really great for your mood.”
The artist mirrors this ‘presence’ via the neutrality of her
camera, which traverses the paradox of this landscape
unnoticed – yet another apparition roaming the
unconscientious, atemporal present of the Chinese
mega-market. As in all works by Rottenberg, emotionality
and didactics are fastidiously avoided while subtly present is
the kind of black humor which is destabilizing, pleasing and
troubling at the same time, just like the ornament-rubbish
and the dispersion-contamination that they portend. As
noted by the artist, in the more than 1OO individual ‘shops’
that she filmed at the Yiwu market, there is a certain
paradox enacted: businesswomen are feverishly closing trade
deals, ensuring a good living thanks to this colorful dumpsite
and their burial in the deadlock conflicts of capitalism.
In order to enter the site of the film’s screening in the
exhibition Paratoxic Paradoxes, one has to walk through a
veil made of Chinese ribbons, procured from the Yiwu market
for this particular exhibition. Thus, the experience of the
work is based on the permeability of yet another screen and
the gradual transition from euphoria to disaffection, from
enjoyment to disgust, as the perversion of the very material
of life becomes perceived, embodied, unbearable.

Nadja Argyropoulou, March 2017