Miguel Rothschild’s immersive art practice represents the duality of life

The Berlin-based Argentinian artist's artworks are a deep run into the interplay of thematic structures, rich materials, abstract format to inquire upon what constitutes sacred.

by Dilpreet Bhullar Published on : Aug 13, 2020

Of the considerably large installations, the dark hues, abstract formats, multiple themes at play, nowhere intend to offer a simplistic take on the creative life of art or the dynamics of life, at large. Additionally, when the works invite you to have an immersive experience around it to draw meaning, the artist complicates the idea of finding yourself standing in front of the piece of art to have an easy pleasure of watching it. The artist in question is Berlin-based Argentinian Miguel Rothschild.

La Reina del Plata, 2017, shattered safety glass, seven glass diamonds in three different dimensions (between 100 and 140 cm in diameter) | Miguel Rothschild | STIRworld
La Reina del Plata, 2017, shattered safety glass, seven glass diamonds in three different dimensions (between 100 and 140 cm in diameter) Image: Courtesy of Ruth Benzacar, galería de arte, Buenos Aires

The ecclesiastical references to the works do not go missing in this. The sanctity does not aim to command respect, but Rothschild runs it through the art of binaries that makes people ponder upon the themes that have remained undisputed for the longest of times. Built upon similar ideas is the installation Elegy that represents the stormy nature of the ocean and sky. Titled after the eponymous poem by Argentine literary figure Jorge Luis Borges, the installation comments on the earthly burden that has a different connotation for people depending on their subjective experience. The installations are made by the suspension of the large piece of printed fabric with a series of strands of transparent fishing wire. Manipulating the human vision, the installation acts as both ocean and sky, former if the viewer is at the front of the installation and the latter if the viewer is watching it from the back. The model of a wet dog curled up takes refuge under the dark cloud.  

‘Elegy’, 2017, 300 x 550 x 280 cm, print on fabric, fishing lines| Miguel Rothschild| STIRworld
Elegy, 2017, 300 x 550 x 280 cm, print on fabric, fishing lines Image: Courtesy of Galerie Kuckei+ Kuckei, Berlin

There is a recurring motif of water with the installations, especially Elegy and De Profundis. In an interview with STIR, Rothschild explains how does this fit the large theme of artworks, “I usually use themes that convey certain meanings a priori. This is why I use iconography and religious or mystical motifs, quotations to art history as well as motifs of nature such as the sea, the starry, cloudy or stormy sky. In all the subjects that I use, I usually have an approach referring to the European romanticism of the 19th century with everything that refers to it: exaltation of the sublime, subjectivity, drama, but I add a certain lightness or humour. So, my storm over the sea (a recurring motif in romanticism) is made with hundreds of fishing lines that support and give volume and drama to a photograph printed on a very fine fabric representing tumultuous water. It is a way to alleviate the tragedy. I am especially interested in the sea because it is associated with beauty and latent danger. I like to work with these two opposite poles”.

Miguel Rothschild’s Spirits, Ghosts and Spectres (2019), 112 x 170 cm, fine art print burned| Miguel Rothschild| STIRworld
Miguel Rothschild’s Spirits, Ghosts and Spectres (2019), 112 x 170 cm, fine art print burned Image: Courtesy of Galerie Kuckei+ Kuckei, Berlin

The craft of Rothschild is not limited to the interplay of themes, but to translate them into final art pieces, the selection of materials plays a key role. For instance, in the series The Birds, the artist includes the photographs and cut out of birds from works of the artists such as Mantegna, El Greco, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, Petrus Christus, Filippo Lippi, Murillo, Van der Weyden, and Giorgio Vasari to the scenes of the fishing village that carry a deserted look from Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic The Birds. Talking about the selection of materials, Rothschild says, “I use it based on what is most suitable for each of the projects. For the realisation of my works, I resort to diverse materials and often to photography as a medium. I like to work with everyday objects and give them a divine connotation, as well as making the sacred profane. The choice of the material I use should reinforce the concept of the work. Everything in the work has a meaning and if I use broken glass, I burn or pierce the work, this adds a very specific content that I use intentionally”.

‘Insomnia’ 05.10.2017, pins and nails pinned onto a c-print 170 x 130 cm | Miguel Rothschild| STIRworld
Insomnia 05.10.2017, pins and nails pinned onto a c-print 170 x 130 cm Image: Courtesy of Bendana Pinel, Art Contemporain, Paris

Rothschild’s artistic practice is shaped by the scale and wide scope of themes that seemingly comment on the binaries — reality and fiction, humour and seriousness — that have come to rule the pattern of our lives. Seemingly, the process of ideation and execution steer the wheel towards the direction where divergent views do not mislead the audience. Rothschild adds, “At first in my atelier, I play with materials and images taking them out of context, from everyday reality to give them a poetic, fantastic, sacred vision. Then I think about how I can technically reinforce this change of view and have a sensuality, a visual appeal. I make tests, impressions, I discard possibilities until I find the form that seems appropriate to me. When I have an exhibition, I think of the space and dialogue between the various works so that they complement and reinforce each other. The same with installations, space where they will be exhibited is essential and I adapt the work to this specific place”.

‘Apocalypse’, 2020, 68 x 58 cm, Fine Art Print burned |  Miguel Rothschild| STIRworld
Apocalypse, 2020, 68 x 58 cm, fine art print burned Image: Courtesy of Galerie Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin, Ruth Benzacar, galería de arte, Buenos Aires

With so much to offer, an inquisitive mind could ask what does Rothschild expect from his audience, and he confesses, “I try to bring up a poetic vision of everyday life. I would like to be able to transmit this but each viewer reacts differently and this is important to me. Many times, they see and interpret things in my work that surprise and fascinate me. The work must finally be a trigger for subjectivities”.

Indeed, the biblical motifs — birds, water, sky — are evoked as a tool of defying the unquestionable supremacy of the holiness. Perhaps, it would be of interest to see how does Rothschild exercise this challenge with not so common references, even if the thematic pallet remains the same.

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