“Squeeze,” Mika Rottenberg’s latest video foray into the lives of women as objects of desire, exploitation and elaborate hygiene rituals, is, as usual, hilarious and sinister but maybe more mysterious than it needs to be. It is viewed in a small, dark, boxlike space within the larger lighted one that is the Mary Boone Gallery. A life-size photograph adjacent to the entrance shows Ms. Boone holding what appears to be a very large chunk of pad Thai but is really a messy aggregate of iceberg lettuce, latex and little metal tins of rouge. A piece of paper taped to the opposite wall indicates that this aggregate is a sculpture that has been shipped to the Cayman Islands.
Little of this makes much sense until you view the dizzying 20-minute video. In it, women of different ethnic backgrounds, skin tones and classes labor in far-flung locations, harvesting and processing the materials for the sculpture. Dark-skinned field hands work in actual lettuce fields in Arizona and a natural latex forest in India. Periodically they pause for hand massages, administered by Asian women who labor beneath the gaze of a Teutonic overseer at a central, undisclosed and apparently underground location. Globalism seems to have collapsed geographic distance.
In the elaborate underground hive, shifting walls, floors and containers of the aforementioned materials contribute further spatial dislocation. An obese dark-skinned woman sits in idle majesty, like a queen bee who is the pinnacle of the art-making hierarchy. One of the hive’s moving walls is punctuated with four bare, Caucasian female fannies, an arrangement that suggests a new idea in hunting trophies, or maybe sconces. The fannies belong to infrequently glimpsed women who pound away at the latex, lettuce and rouge.
“Squeeze” ultimately lacks the coherence and clarity of Ms. Rottenberg’s previous videos, but that may be the price she pays — at least temporarily — for burrowing outward, to more directly connect her wry, deeply disturbing vision to the world’s intractable irrationalities. -- New York Times