Our latest New York Close Up has just gone live! Click to watch “Mika Rottenberg & Jon Kessler Wanna Make You Sweat,” the first of eight new profiles added to Art21’s Webby-nominated online series.
How do artists make the intangible tangible? In this film, SEVEN (2011)—a collaborative work by the artists Mika Rottenberg and Jon Kessler commissioned by the New York-based performance biennial Performa—is performed for the last time at Nicole Klagsbrun Project space. Over the course of three weeks, several times a day, seven performers clock in, ride a stationary bike, and work up a sweat before a live audience in an immersive sculptural installation.
Each of the seven performers represents a particular chakra—cosmic energy centers located within the body—and are ascribed corresponding prismatic colors of the rainbow, resulting in chromatic sweat. The sweat is collected in a sauna-like “Chakra Juicer,” distilled by a self-described mad scientist in a laboratory, and metaphorically transported to the African savannah. Rottenberg explains how she wants her performers to not act or emote, being more interested in how their bodies behave and the physical materials she can extract from their exertions. Performing in sync with a video featuring a rural community in Botswana, Rottenberg and Kessler’s project unites laborers in New York with “the cradle of humankind” through timed exchanges of materials and a common purpose. Playfully absurd, Rottenberg and Kessler blend reality and fiction—extreme conditions and comedic sleights-of-hand—to create a zany, wordless narrative.
Mika Rottenberg (b. 1976, Bueno Aires, Argentina; raised in Tel Aviv, Israel) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Jon Kessler (b. 1957, Yonkers, New York, USA) lives and works in New York City.