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Contemporary art

Western art

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Lips (Study #3)



Mika Rottenberg

Argentina, Israel

1976 -


Through a small hole in the wall of a gallery, a pair of fleshy lips protrude. Moving closer and leaning in, one sees light flickering between them. A puff of what looks like smoke emerges from the lips – as if some bodily or industrial activity is taking place behind the wall. Peering into the cavity, the source of this steaminess reveals itself – a mirror box that holds a hilarious view of bodies working, labouring, performing. Through lurid stippled walls protrude bodily bits and pieces: ponytails, mouths, tongues, and fleshy buttocks. They jiggle and spurt as if in a peepshow that’s both exhibitionist and absurdist. And the longer one looks, the more one is conscious of behaving voyeuristically in public. Mika Rottenberg is an artist who often invites us to peer behind the scenes, into cramped, strange, backstage spaces where bizarre forms of labour play out. The strange acts of production that her performers take part in are comedic, first and foremost, but they also prompt reflection on the larger absurdity of the processes that make our (first) world go round: the way the hidden labour of people very far from us keeps us fed, clothed, supported. This work by Rottenberg continues this exploration and connects it directly with the ‘work’ of art, by puncturing the skin of the revered ‘white cube’ and revealing something weird behind the scenes. Making art and generating pleasure for its viewers, Rottenberg suggests, is not a lofty or pure endeavour. It is sticky, impure and often absurd work, which makes willing voyeurs of us all.




Materials used

single channel video installation, colour, sound


4/6 unique [edition of 6 + 1AP: 4/6 unique edition as it features 'smoke']


duration: 00:01:28 min


Sydney Modern Foundation Purchase 2019


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Mika Rottenberg

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Margot Norton (Editor), Mika Rottenberg: Easypieces, New York, 2019, (colour illus.).