@2019 Enrique Rottenberg

Art.Mo 2018:
Enrique Rottenberg,
el ojo de La Habana
By Czar Gutiérrez (elcomercio.pe)

El escritor, cineasta y fotógrafo argentino israelí radicado en Cuba llega a Lima como parte del Festival Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo ArtMo

Multiforme, díscolo y provocador. Dueño de una técnica fotográfica digital que se confunde con la pintura de un lienzo hiperrealista, la obra de Enrique Rottenberg (Buenos Aires, 1948) es tan heterodoxa y múltiple como su existencia misma: hijo de padres judíos de ascendencia polaco-ucraniana, a los 13 años marchó a Israel para terminar la escuela, servir en el ejército y estudiar filosofía antes de embarcarse en una vida de película: filmó seis largometrajes –su "Venganza de Isaac Finkelstein" postuló al Oscar en 1993–, cruzó el océano y echó anclas en Cuba, donde escribió la novela erótica "Cejalinda" (2006).

"Amo esta isla, extraño la comida judía, soy hincha de Boca y quiero que Argentina gane el Mundial", dice el hombre que ha hecho de La Habana el núcleo genitor de su arte, cuyo espíritu libérrimo mantiene inmune en medio de la discutible atmósfera política de un país gobernado hace 53 años por un partido único. "Una vez me preguntaron por qué siendo israelí ninguna de mis películas hablan del conflicto con Palestina y mi respuesta fue: 'Yo tengo conflicto con mi calva, no con los palestinos'".

 

LÚDICO Y CEREBRAL


Con ese mismo espíritu lúdico, Rottenberg agarra su cámara fotográfica y camina por Buenavista, populoso barrio habanero rico en restaurantes privados ('paladares'), trapicheros que juegan al dominó y toman ‘ron peleón’, cuna de santeros y paraíso de muñecas orishas Ochún, Yemayá y Babalú Ayé. En Buenavista todos creen en alguna entidad superior, esas que viven al otro lado del mar. Hasta allí llega el fotógrafo, clava su trípode en el suelo y se dispone frente al obturador.

"Trabajo con los mismos modelos hace diez años, son amas de casa, abogados, periodistas, maestros, obreros, borrachos, etc. Todavía Cuba tiene eso, distintas clases sociales e intelectuales conviviendo en un mismo barrio", dice. "Llevo 25 años en este país, tiempo suficiente como para crear cierta confianza mutua entre nosotros. Por eso cada producción es una pequeña fiesta. Hay cerveza, ron y música. El ambiente perfecto para crear". Entonces despliega un puñado de imágenes de desconcertante belleza: interrogan primero y perturban después.

No otra cosa es ese encuentro interracial de dos ancianas que se besan ("Historia de un beso") o el choque entre una escuadra de hombres blancos contra otra de negros sobre la cuadrícula de un campo de batalla cerebral ("Ajedrez"). O de ese night club americano de los años 20 redivivo en la coquetería de un grupo de damas ligeras de ropa ("Los años locos, las bailarinas rojas bailando"). Y, otra vez, la proclama antirracista de 128 hombres negros mirando fijo sobre un telón de fondo que funciona como prisma tornasol ("Hombres con color").

Guiños al enfermo imaginario de Molière ("La muela") y huellas dactilares de identidad en una toma veraniega desde la planta de los pies ("La playa"). Doce elegantes enternados de mediana edad boquiabiertos sosteniendo un huevo ("Las 12 sillas"). Diecinueve mujeres cuya suntuosa carnosidad es fotografiada en un mismo dormitorio ("19 mujeres y una cama"). Y esa famosa foto de un cuadrúpedo humano perfectamente camuflado en la rosácea tonalidad de un establo de marranos ("Puercos").

 

ANTES QUE ANOCHEZCA


"Mis modelos oscilan entre los 18 y 87 años, pero generalmente son mayores de 50. Hay en mi obra una cierta ironía, cierto humor, puede que sea mi manera de defenderme. Es decir, no soy dueño de la verdad y lo que digo no es serio ni absoluto, pero lo que sí puedo asegurar es que estas fotos son un reflejo de lo que llevo adentro porque, como decía una poeta israelí, 'solo de mí supe contar / estrecho es mi mundo / como el mundo de una hormiga'".

¿Y de dónde esa profundidad psicológica, esos elementos de desconcierto que dislocan la mirada y terminan fracturando un probable 'final feliz'? "Como nací en Argentina, trabajo bajo la premisa de que las imágenes provienen del inconsciente. Solo después de terminar una foto intento explicar lo que hice. Tal vez en mi obra haya un esfuerzo de diferenciar al individuo de la masa", responde. Y se pierde entre 'melaos' de caña, gajos benditos de albahaca, velas negras para los muertos y sahumerios blancos para los dioses. En Buenavista todos creen en alguna entidad superior "porque todos los santos ayudan a escapar".

Czar Gutiérrez, Peru, April 2018

The incurable otherness of the bifronte
By Rafael Acosta

This unique exhibition has been created by four hands, owing its uniqueness not only to the unusual fact that the pieces have been created by four hands, but to the very nature of the artists, a photographer and a painter, and not less important, by their styles, by their specific nature, in which radical differences as well as similarities stand out. After a conversation in which Carlos Quintana and Enrique Rottenberg formulated the idea, Carlos chose a group of pictures taken by Enrique, and he then printed them on canvas for Quintana to perform an intervention on them with his paintbrushes. The pieces show us that the reality of these images is elusive; they rightfully belong to the art world, to the imagination and recreation of reality. Rottenberg’s photographic fantasies and Quintana’s pictorial ones contrast each other, but together they create a new reality or unreality, as you may prefer. The painter’s rapid and chaotic strokes combined with the photographer’s iconographic mystery give birth to authentically surrealist works. A strange atmosphere, with a bipolar otherness, welcomes each frame’s narrative. Both artists are possessed souls, men who dominate their obsessions (although at times we can perceive their lack of control) and they tell us that art is a serious game, but without the game there is no art. Doubles are part of the copies’ and heteronyms’ domain, except that in each half of the created piece there is a certain autonomy which is impossible to breakdown. Each side of this pair is unconquerable; each party projects its particular shade; one looking for the other and both seeking themselves. The identities pact on a new image, it’s the dialogue between them what really counts, even if this conversation is sometimes concluded in silence. In other words, in these sui generis works the styles (the personality of the signs) are intermixed and stop being such in the resulting image. Understanding the complex concept of the double is much more spiritual than aesthetic. The essential value of each picture lays in the mix of both talents, in the certainty that

each piece is signed by two strong artistic temperaments, and by two mythical passions, each one more amazing and unique than the other. Both artists have surpassed the “I” of their personal poetics, and that search, is the road towards the unknown, giving value to each piece, a one to one that is really worthwhile appreciating. The shadows of one and the other, their personal ghosts, generate a visual phenomenon that fades into unreality. The models, Rottenberg himself, Andres Serrano, Ariela Shavit – the Enrique´s coauthor of three of the photographs, the naked young women, the monk and the rest of the figures, undergo an operation of un-identity, and are turned into pure images by the painter’s magic, within this turbulent visual adventure in which the titles of the pieces have their own space and voice. There is a clear ecstasy in the show, a delicious madness emanating from the creative process, the most absolute freedom known to man. It seems impossible for two artists to conceive a more surreal exhibition that this one, an anarchic dialogue where the images have the last word. Both have proven to have vicious imaginations, addicted to gestating images, whatever the challenge imposed, their utterly free minds work with ardor, they are passionately imaginative, capable of creating a mixed hermeneutics in which they merge the core of their own cryptic ideals. For both, the body is a supplier of signs in which the erotic definitely vanquishes time: body, Eros’ and Thanatos’ yearnings, desire, pleasure, life. Art is the refuge of man’s mimetic behavior, a certainty that it is undisputed in the present. What began as man’s thrill upon seeing his reflection in the mirror of a pond, way back in time, today is the crazed creation of images of all kinds, including these, of course. Fabrica de Arte should be very pleased to host the duel between the samurai and the sorcerer, an interesting give and take of which the winners are the viewers.

Rafael Acosta de Arriba, Havana, January 2016

Discovering Enrique Rottenberg and the FAC
By A.J. Twist

Cuba has long been an incubator for extraordinary and unique fine art. It can be a collector’s dream for spotting emerging artists and inventive techniques. Plus you never know when and where you might run into a piece that will make you freeze in your tracks and drop your jaw as you are as tounded by the pure beauty a piece or pieces. It could be on the Prado on a Saturday morning where artists show their works along the tree-lined walkway, in a tiny shop snuggled down a tiny corridor, through a doorway off of Obispo Street, or it may be in some of the more traditional galleries such as the Fototeca de Cuba in Old Havana. For me it last happened at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano (The “FAC” as it is more commonly known) located in a former olive oil factory in the Vedado district of Havana. There my heart skipped a beat as I came face to face with the photographic works of Enrique Rottenberg. Suddenly I found myself immersed in a colorful and fantastical world that drew on some of the familiar elements of Havana (distressed interiors, colorful costumes, dissolute lives, worn, tired and resigned faces). Yet the artist had transformed these characteristics into true masterpieces that would fit comfortably beside a Rembrandt or a Warhol if you were a museum curator looking to expand the collection. Enrique Rottenberg is one of those true Renaissance men who comes by the handle honestly. Prior to his relatively recent imminence as one of Cuba’s premiere photographers and resident artists, Rottenberg has at one time been a film producer, who has produced six films (including one, “Isaac Finkelstein’s Revenge”, that he was screenwriter and director and was nominated for a foreign Oscar in 1994); a novelist (“La mujer de su vida” published in Spain in 2006); and a real estate developer (including the Miramar Trade Centre in Havana, built by Rottenberg and his associates in 1993 shortly after he moved to Havana from Israel). Born in Argentina some 66 years ago to Jewish parents of Russian and Polish decent, he immigrated to Israel on his own at the age of 13 where he eventually built a thriving real estate empire. There is no doubt this man’s interests are diverse and global. Yet his photographic career is a relatively recent endeavor (since 2010) but already he is making an impact on the international art community. This summer he shows in Berlin. Previous exhibits have included shows in Australia, Argentina and Amsterdam. Enquiries from the U.S. and Canada have been steady but this is a gentleman who is in no rush to have his works consumed by the masses for purely economic gain. Rather than choose the more traditional commercial art venues his only real interest, at this point, is in showing in major contemporary art galleries and museums. At the FAC, where he was a driving force in getting the multifaceted complex off the ground, the collection I came across included images from his series “Sleeping with…”, which are a number of photographic studies of various Havana bedrooms, the incredible “19 Women and 1 bed” project which involved the sitting for the photographer from a truly varied number of women from one neighborhood in Havana; and Self-portraits (2011-2014) which are s series shot in one of the most famous mansions in Havana where the artist interacts with his inner fantasies or issues while incorporating the mansion and various actors and costumes within his mind. All of these photos are there for the viewing at the FAC and I suggest you get there soon. This artist is one to watch and his adopted homeland may soon prove to be not big enough to contain his talent. View them soon. He is well on his way!

 

The Fábrica de Arte Cubano is located at 26 Calle 26, corner of Calle 11, Vedado, Havana. Tel (+537) 838-22-60

The Bedroom: On the Threshold of Myth and Worldliness
By Rafael Acosta de Arriba

It has been said that photography has two subject-matters: life and photography itself. The output of images has cluttered the world we live in, overfilling it with every imaginable kind of icon: advertising, marketing, political, religious, etc. However, the images in these artworks stir deep-rootedemotions and lead the individual to dwell on the most intimate human feelings.This is what Dormir con... deals with, an exhibition that is appreciated for many reasons. Rottenberg, Argentinean-Israelite residing in Cuba, who is quite acknowledged within the European film world and also as a narrator, has taken to experiment with photography ( at least concerning the expositive character of his work). They both set off on a journey all along Cuba, from east to west, in the pursuit of shooting every bedroom whose atmosphere and setting they found suggestive or distinctive. The outcome is but a minimum fraction of what these two artists photographed in myriad Cuban homes. Their journey was therefore inwards, towards the inner nature of Cuban idiosyncrasy itself, to the utmost intimate place where people feel, rest, go to sleep, suffer, reflect, make love, listen to music or watch television. In short, to the room where we spend approximately the third part of our lives. At once some thoughts come to our minds: How much suffering and helplessness were threshed there? How many hopes and deceits have these walls witnessed? Photography is endowed with the gift of stirring up such ideas and suggestions. No wonder it is one of the strongest visual links with memory, with our experiences. The concept of photopoetry was coined since Ansel Adams’ times when he stated his own personal credo: “A great photography is the full expression of what you feel about the subject matter that you are photographing in the deepest sense, and therefore it is the authentic expression of what you feel about life itself.” There is nothing more evident than this concept to summarize the esthetic attitude of these two artists in this exhibition. Feeling and talent are in perfect communion. They have attempted and achieved to give shape to their sense of everyday life reality by means of their artworks. A great part of this sense of reality (where the image starts) has been skillfully combined by using technique and their craftsmanship (where the image is completed) and thus were able to accomplish their pursuit by the power of suggestion which their artworks possess (where the image speaks to us) The efficient color scheme enhances even more the ensemble. The symbol of the bedrooms goes through human history. The precariousness of the rooms that feature in the exhibition must not be considered as part of a mania that arose in the nineties and consisted in shooting the city decay. I must warn that there is a cardinal difference. In most of the photos that overfilled books, magazines and exhibitions at that time, featured the decay of the city and the people during the so called “special period”, and most of the time they lacked a solid esthetic purpose. They dealt with precariousness and decay directly, without any kind of intellectual or visual mediation. They were just a sort of misfortune inventory. They consisted of walls ravaged by time, wrecked streets, cars that had become running junk, undernourished people, untidy and vulgar registers of the scum of our society at the end of the twentieth century. However, in many of these attempts, the esthetic discourse was lacking, as well as the poetic vision that suggests dwelling on the causes of those social issues. I would also like to point out that these images suggest an ethical issue as well. It focuses on the importance these bedrooms have for the people who inhabit them, no matter how pitiful their state. There is no doubt that their dwellers wish for a better place, which is a normal feeling in the evolution of the human being, enhanced when living in need or privation. Photographic art does not refute this, it only discloses it harshly. In other words, these rooms make up the reality, there is no place else, and this fact makes the critical understatement of the images quite legitimate. How important could a bedroom be despite its modesty, humbleness or precariousness? This is an open question suggested by the images of Rottenberg and Otero. For the time being, we appreciate their responsibility in the way they have dealt with the images as well as in the preparation of the exhibition, while we shall keep on dwelling on these spaces, the source of simple, intimate and great stories. With their photos, Rottenberg have touches the essence of myths and sacredness.

Journey to maturity
By Dana Gillerman

The danger of photographing the margins is even greater when done from a stranger´s external viewpoint. But in the series of self-portraits, Rottenberg turns himself too into a ¨strangers¨, a deviant. Here too there is a voyeuristic gaze, but this time it is turned on the photographer himself. In this case the deviance is not just in the bizarre he stages - naked on all fours in a pigsty, or as a naked referee in a boxing match between to naked woman - but also, principally, in the presentation of his aging body. In each case, he present his body in the fullness of its years, next to woman. There is a feeling of powerlessness and impotence in these scenes, and a great fear of ruin - the destruction of the budy and loss of virility. This series present youth side by side with old age and bestiality. Rottenberg exposes himselfand his body to the viewer´s gaze, just as he exposes his subjects. In this sense, Rottenberg himself become the Other, the marginalized. He loses his place as functioning man, and becomes invisible. Women and not threatened by his presence. They barely see him, and from his point of view there is nothing more threatening that this. Age is one of the most repressive and silencing things in western culture. An old man become transparent, invisible. In his research into old age, Prof. Haim Hazan writes about removing the old from public discource, and turning them into ghosts hovering between life and its negative. ¨The otherness of old age beyond the cultural, not to say beyond the human,¨ he writes. ¨It return the human, so to speak, to his crude, pre-cultural existence, his natural, even bestial state.¨ Thus one may understand Rottenberg´s metaphorical use of animals, whether he dons a tiger costume or turns himself into a pig in a sty. Cuba, with its austere bedrooms, women and fishermen, is not a western country. Old age is presented there as an inherent part of the daily lives of the women, the fishermen, the family, and perhaps this is precisely what augments Rottenberg´s otherness, reflects his journey to maturity and aging, which has something of the beauty and ugliness, time and compassion, of all those images he chose to inmortalize with his camera.

The History of Cuba as told by its beds
by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Insomnia is a very persistent thing. But wakefulness can be even worse. Nietzsche asked to see people asleep to get a glimpse of their true nature. Photographers Carlos Otero and Enrique Rottenberg are satisfied with empty beds, beds alone, as landscapes of a country, without the protagonists of lost plans and ongoing nightmares. Cuba no longer a bucolic sheet but an indoor sheet with digital treatment. A democratically anti-demographic Cuba (Malthus more than Marx), where all listened but no one portrayed themselves. We are talking about the latest exhibition at the Fototeca de Cuba, 307 Mercaderes Street, Plaza Vieja in Havana, Cuba: “Sleeping With…” that remained open to the public from November 4 for a whole month. The two creators visited more than 700 Cuban homes to ensemble their pile of mattresses. The number is awesome. And all opened their bedrooms for nothing, except maybe a small slice of aesthetic eternity. The click as a sort of aura of the Cuban artist, since both consider themselves as such, even if Rottenberg (filmmaker and narrator) is Israeli. It does not seem such a bad idea to narrate the homeland from where the homeland rests horizontally, from where it lies less as a homeland and more as a possibility, from where Cubans are less biped and more potential corpses, from where we obey social discipline less and sexual desire more. From where we pee as babies and old men, existential extremes. It’s as if we opened Pandora’s bed. And then arises the intimate story of the nation, its remotest niches that don’t fit any Gross Domestic Product or Social Development Index. It is the whispering triumph of the bed chamber lying on the thousand and one speeches on foot at the square. The photos of “Sleeping with…” are hyperplastic. From anthropological documentalism one jumps, in part thanks to professional software, to an unrealism of almost gothic atmospheres in their Creole misery or bourgeois glamour turned to ruin. They don’t offend. They don’t get us involved. Light is lunar, neat pixel by pixel, saturating the framing until rendering flat, despite the open and blinding angles: the work of a miniaturist, a haiku made in Nikon. They sometimes remind us of those kitsch paintings sold in dollars at the artisans fairs located not far from the gallery. But a certain amazement saves them. A certain terror of abandoned objects. Certain pity of fellow countrymen rescues them at the last minute, even as unlikely images of a floating shipwreck with the fatum of perpetuity. I would like to inhabit any of the beds showcased by Otero and Rottenberg. There is an illusion of life in that emptying of baroquism. There is ambience of eccentric stage, of atypical collage or Cubanesque caricature, of under-surrealistic short circuit between a sewing machine and a laptop. The presentation speech at the inauguration was performed by essayist Rafael Acosta de Arriba: “A trip to the inner self, to the inside of the nature of our national being”. And, it is indeed the delicious diary of a trip from the capital to the provinces, from art-deco to the art of deconstruction. But in any case, what the Otero and Rottenberg trademark translates of Cuba, maybe unintentionally, is that ineffable and never inspired “over-nature” that a Cuban poet dreamt, from his chair or his bed maybe today inventoried in his home-museum located in 162, Trocadero St. “Sleeping with…” or Awakening without… A contagious idea. What about photographing tables? Or garages? Or bathrooms? What about nibbling from the cake of what like a whole was always a cosmic chaos that never clotted? I should return several times to the Fototeca de Cuba. I suspect that among the aleph of objects that bounce in each photo it is possible to extract more than one diagnosis. And that polysemy is, of course, very political. And it is even more contagious.

Sleeping with...: the portrait of an absence
by Cristina Díaz

Sleeping with... the series of photos by artists Enrique Rottenberg and Carlos Otero tells a different story that contrasts with the incessant public spectacle with which the lives of Cubans tend to be perceived, immersed in music, clamour and unmotivated bustle. We are introduced to people’s most secret space, the one of dreams, through photos of the most private place of a home, the bedroom. These are photos to the intention of anonymous dreamers, the “unknown soldiers,” as Enrique Rottenberg called them in his opening speech thanking the thousand people throughout the island who opened their doors to the widest of their hospitality. The absence of inhabitants in the photographs fills the environments with subjective content, giving soul to objects that contain bits of the story of each character as well as their diffused national and personal identity. These portraits of absence call on our own ability to dream, summoning the spectator’s consciousness and unconscious: from within the bedroom to the inside of us. Enrique Rottenberg, award‐winning Israeli filmmaker with seven feature films, also a writer and photographer, has been living in Cuba for more than 16 years. It is in Cuba where his passion for photography was born. Constantly moved by subjective and internal conflicts, by the dark side of the heart, always with a tone more comical‐tragic than dramatic, more human than epic, he uses his camera to steal the soul, always questioning ethics and power in the exercise of art. Carlos Otero is a Cuban photographer who arose from the deep sea as champion of several national and international underwater photography events, work that has been showcased in many places. His present work has an acute social involvement and an incisive sensitivity to his country’s present and the people who live there. Beds contain a cycle. It is usually where life is conceived and where it ends. In the interval, the bed is the permanent witness of our loves and disappointments, of nightmares and sleepless nights, of solitude and company, of our dreams. It is not an allegory, not a symbol, it is concretely that bed, that mirror, it is that red and those dogs on the wall. The images express an emphatic silence, a petrifaction of time, a disturbing perpetuity. Faceless, voiceless, as in the great Cuban movie Suite Habana, Sleeping with... makes us see what is not in our every day tamed vision.

Enrique Rottenberg’s relentless utopia
by Cristina Díaz Erofeeva

Utopia is not a happy term; it’s a necessary principle. It can barely support itself, largely depending on judgments, tending to stand unequivocally on the side of idealization, and collapsing in any application, in which it does not turn into its own opponent. It becomes necessary to expose it to its original contradiction, which it was founded by Thomas More (“Of a republic’s best state and of the new island Utopia, truly golden book, no less festive than helpful”, 1515-1516): the nowhere of an illusion of a perfect society, so other inherent contradictions may appear within it. You can’t speak of utopia in art without asking the question (hardly rises well) regarding the transformation potential of art itself: between the formal-symbolic invention and the ethical-political effectiveness. There is a certain movement that never ceases to reveal itself in Enrique Rottenberg’s work, the artist of the “disturbing strangeness”, building its multiple layers, which go from the farcical to the edge of reality, from oniric shadows to the brutal light of the vigil, from finding a way out at any price to encountering the irreconcilable. In Enrique Rottenberg’s recent compositions, gathered by under the misleading word Utopia, there is explicit movement from the self to the masses, from a self-referential subject to the artificial masses: manmass, woman-mass, people-mass... Social mechanisms unfold on large formats, articulated bodies, connections, forming machine-like devices which consensus engineering puts into motion. These are photo installations of social installations, which make one or the other of its constructive elementsvisible, all acting on us without us actually realizing it, alienating elements brought to evidence. From its scaffolding emerges a social imaginary for minorities, understood by Deleuze as those are not represented in the consensus model, but rather those marginalized from it, lost, all invisible under cloak of the proposal of how to be happy, how to get goods, how to be recognized, how to exercise our sexuality, of ambiguous political ideals and even of standardized beauty, the Utopias of the social institutions. A single bedroom formed by many bedrooms which are actually the same bedroom, is the set which the artist staged for 19 women and a bed; each one of them is torn from the privacy of their body and of their being by the camera. How can you give them, or at least offer them, some freedom, during that moment of staged loneliness and abandonment from themselves, during that instant in which memories and dreams concur before going to sleep? How can they find in that bedroom –an intimate place – but reduced by the artist to a single common context for all of them, a unique sense to their existence, within the oppression of their daily life which is the prison of their desire; how can we save them now during this revealed uprooting? When someone walks by The Line, they see bodies. Women’s bodies lined up, arm to shoulder, disciplined, standing in line with a static, militant movement; you have to walk together with these women to recognize their faces and to discover their constant, incisive, almost persecutory gaze, in which you become the one being watched and questioned. Under those looks, the worn, imperfect, inopportune, bodies become real life experiences, symbols of suffering, struggle and inconclusive hopes, which are still present, and finally becoming a sign of resistance. In an opposite tension, the men of The Dance appear in a dancing pose. The Dance is a cross section of a spiral made of circular space and time, with forced rhythm and steps, under a loop melody that repeats a song by Emir Kusturica – “Ovo Je Muski Svet” (“This is a man’s world”) - whose meaning is not understood by the men who dance it, but who holding on to each other keeping step as best they can: this is the spiral of repetition-revolution. Standing within it, gazing at each expression, at every gesture, makes the eye dance until you feel vertigo. At first, they’re all repeated, they’re all the same, they’re all like one, until the differences start appearing, then emphasized, and the relationship is no longer with the whole group, but with each one; you must endure to overcome the stunning theatricality, and the amusing insinuation of the basket full of underwear: welcome to the dance or resist the temptation. The temptation of reading in a newspaper about the death of 300,000 people in Syria over the last three years,just as a mere figure, without any feeling of distressthat could cross all the way through the massiveness of these statistics, sinking your face in it, the life and death of each one. 300,000 feels like none. Rottenberg’s satire is not just a manner of relieving angst, but of facing the pain, a permanent opposition to the canons which exclude so many people. That is why his characters are the so-called ordinary people call, John Doe, as he says, or Jane Doe. Maybe that’s why he turns to The Crazy Years, during which the carnival cheered up the fortunate ones. A bright red dance ensemble, smiling seductive women who do not conform to the cinema or magazine standards, who are not blond, nor thin, nor young, and behind their smilesthey hide their shame. Obviously, it is not to them, to whom the glory and the right to happiness is awarded. The sinister navel of the utopias is their deep core, their cause, and their outcome. The Spanish newspaper El País published (4/05/2015): The government of Colombia and the FARC have agreed on a Truth Commission. This is an Orwellian title. Rottenberg’s Big Egg makes the gray world of 1984 become current: they love their Big Brother more than anything, men and women, fist to fist, defend their flag. But the artist plays a prank on them, he tells them –tells us (because they do not see him, they are us) - the sun of your flag, are your actual conditions of existence –a fried egg – although they make them believe (fear and worship) their big brother –their totem and master of the truth; the struggle of each of us, is to survive every day, and that is why we pay the exorbitant price of turning the oppressor into a sun and we give him our soul. Imposed ideals and imposed reality are two sides of the same flag, but the yearning for happiness shall never be reduced to a fried egg, and both are widely exploited by the dominating powers. From this work of making visible, sensible and audible the behaviorism of mass being which we are used to, and of which we are insensibly part of, what is really surprising is the effect: Rottenberg’s photo installations, far from reproducing the effacement of the individual, enhance the uniqueness of each One, making it leap from the panoramic shots. In place of de-subjectivizing the masses, an otherness is evoked. How to understand this secret? Works that conjure alienation produce a de-alienation effect (even ephemeral); they make the individual rebels himself from his anonymity. This is the principle of the immanent utopia of creation. Standing on the ominous side of transcendental utopias, they evoke the sensation of certain emancipation, by recognizing the humanity of the other. Because what else is this about, if not about the shame of being human. Yet however, pointing the finger towards the gray zone (by Primo Levy) of every co-existence system (and the systems for non-existence) and abandoning necessarily the hopes that sustains it, some dignity may be recovered. Some of Rottenberg’s images are screams, sometimes deaf and others strident, onomatopoeias, moans, silences. Indeed, it seems the desire to recreate metaphors is absent, they make themselves and are imposed at a later time, like the poetry of the prosaic ones. A piece that seems to distance itself from the discourse of mass installations, which speaks the language of the immediate sensation, but a silent image, almost dumb: its title is The Wall. A distant sound like an echo, transmitting by the textures of the algae with the colors of extinction, embedded in a wall –the prehistoric mural – under which two beings, the human couple, the origin of the conceited species, were buried; here no story is possible. But Rottenberg is a story maker, perhaps because the story is a necessity of life, unlike death. And it is also a destroyer of mirages. That’s why, and despite everything, standing before this photograph we still have time to think about what rouses us (as well as what do not discourages us), and maybe of admitting, for once, that the dominion over the others and over nature (including “own nature”) is only reached in delirium, and the great deliriums of humanity have led to its greatest disasters. But it will never be too much to repeat with Deleuze: we must listen to the small deliriums, the minorities’ muffled sighs and neglected convulsions, which as Deleuze says, not due to their numbers but due to their lack of mold: they are becoming. Rottenberg’s works give rise to these majority minorities, they host them, and they open a space for their becoming. Becoming mass, becoming man, becoming woman, becoming animal... The Centipede is a work that condenses Rottenberg’s relentless utopia. Its visual impact expands sensations. But what is the centipede? An arthropod, the largest phylum in the animal kingdom, its body is articulated to its multiple legs, divided into moving parts and as social insectsthey’re characterized by a gregarious behavior. There are 50 women of whom we can only see their hundred feet, allowing them to walk, subjugated under the golden mantle of the utopia of which they are not the authors, but rather the participants. This space creates a movement that unlike The Dance is not circular but infinite in another way: first, the obliquity of the installation allows us to perceive the long and always sequential movement with a single view; the Centipede’s starting point and the destination of its journey is dark and unknown; but it’s the viewer who moves closer towards the details of the photograph and backsaway to be in contact again with the wholeentity, and that repeated movement from the entire work to the part, and the from part to the whole entity, by the viewer, creates the centipedes’territory and the possibility of de-territorialization (Deleuze) for all those who enter the installation. The artist does not intend to change the world and doesn’t offer a program to do it, he can’t do it. But when names it utopia, his creative act also becomes a political act, not in anxious anticipation, but rather torn from the creation process which the work bears in itself. Deleuze says that it is not so much about utopia, as it is about a fantasy common both to the artist and to the people; and once again using his words, it is essential to say that these works by Rottenberg appeal to the missing people. They do not point to an ideal or towards a better future, but rather take the place of the missing people because they need it. To do it, Rottenberg has no other option than to go through the nightmare that is present in every dream, the dark side of social utopias, which lead to totalitarianism, religious fundamentalism, the consumption of consumer societies. Finally, the artist surrenders, the reality overcomes any fiction, even the most anti-utopian. He recognizes this, and after doing so, produced a work in which the totalitarian utopia already defeated, useless and worn out as an old shoe, and thrown away, rises from the depths of the ocean, in its external features, a super-realist absurd. On the shores of the ocean, on barren cemented soil, the renovate dranks of an army of young women resurfaces, strong and willing, with turtle helmets (wisdom is always delayed and endangered), standing firmly during a troop review in front their commanders with a fish helmet (which does not speak because it already knows everything), with a crab helmet (the one who walks back), an octopus helmet (which has many arms that converge at its mouth and hyper-developed eyes). This, of course, is our own fantasy, which is always on the side of reality, trying to diminish the absurd, understanding the incomprehensible, reconciling with the impossible; and thus utopia, an absurd concept, but a needed principle, will only cease to so by creating another utopia. Perhaps love is the most resistant to dialectics of this sort, and sums up the problem of any utopia much better: “A fish may love a bird, the problem is where will they live?” (Shalom Aleichem, Fiddler on the Roof).