Mika Rottenberg (b. 1976)
Multi-channel video installation
Courtesy Julia Stoschek Foundation e.v., Düsseldorf
The work Cheese is loosely based on the true story of the seven Sutherland sisters, who, in New York in the late nineteenth century, manufactured and sold their own hair product, The Lucky Number 7 – Seven Sutherland Sisters’ Hair Grower. The sisters were known for their extremely long hair, which they claimed was a result of their own secret discovery. An article in Leisure Magazine of 1968, however, reveals that “the ladies presented a combined hair growth of 35 feet, 10 inches (almost 11 meters), attributed wholly to the ingredients of their miracle discovery, a secret later analyzed as alcohol, rainwater and food coloring”.
Taking the story of the business minded Sutherland sisters as her starting point; Mika Rottenberg has created an installation that consists of six projections housed within a wooden structure. In the fiction of the film, six longhaired sisters live together in a ramshackle barn where they make cheese, not just from the milk of the goats they keep, but also through various mysterious rituals involving their hair. The film shows the meticulous washing, grooming and styling of hair, a process so laborious that the sisters have to assist one another. In the strange, fairytale-like scenarios played out in this film, the women’s entire existence seems to revolve around the task of conjuring up supernatural powers to manufacture a single and unremarkable object for consumption – a perfectly ordinary block of cheese.