Mike Rothfeld is a project based artist and writer living and working in San Francisco. He received his MFA in Fine Arts and MA in Visual and Critical Studies through the Dual Degree MFA/MA Program at California College of the Arts (CCA) in 2014 and his BFA in Photography and Imaging with honors from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU) in 2003. He is currently a Postgraduate Teaching Fellow at CCA where he teaches in the undergraduate Photography Program.
Rothfeld’s current practice consists primarily of the construction of lo-fi, often clumsy, set pieces and props. Imagery from science fiction and science reality are his source materials and set and prop construction techniques borrowed from the cinema and theatre are the basis for his methods of production. Rothfeld’s materials range from the low-tech craft of paper mache to higher-tech items like Arduinos and custom LED systems.Rothfeld’s work investigates how, as special effects’ ability to pass as reality increases, a viewer’s reliance on imagination and suspension of disbelief decreases and what affects this may have on the ability to imagine new futures, experiences of temporality and what is considered authentic.
His art work has been displayed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA; the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, CA; the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Jan Larsen’s Xpo, Brooklyn, NY; the Beacon Artist Union, Beacon, NY and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, England, among other galleries and venues. In the summer of 2014, his work was included in the Bay Area Now 7 triennial exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
His writing has appeared in several issues of Art Practical and show “take-aways” for Stairwell’s exhibitions.
For more information and examples of his work: http://mikerothfeld.com
- 09.22.2014 / Watch Michael Rothfeld Present at Annual VCS Symposium
- 09.09.2014 / Leora Lutz Reviews BAN7 in SFAQ
- 8.25.2014 / Sightlines Essays from VCS Class of 2014 Now Available
- 07.03.2014 / Work of Mike Rothfeld in Bay Area Now 7
Futures Worth Remembering: The Commercial Space Industry, Science Fiction, and the Radical Break
The commercial space industry is attempting to colonize the future, from the present, through a kind of ideological time travel. As part of our western, social, collective imaginary, space is thought of as a frontier, the frontier of our contemporary moment., Although it may seem that space is empty of inhabitants and is therefore open, neutral territory, I argue that through the use of visual tropes from popular science fiction (SF) movies and TV shows, strategies of landscape representation used in support of Manifest Destiny during US Western Expansion, and the repression of what critical theorist Fredric Jameson calls the radical break, members of the commercial space industry are naturalizing global capitalism and white, male, heteronormativity as the always already system of space while neutralizing SF’s ability to perform what Darko Suvin calls cognitive estrangement. In doing so, they are prepopulating space with virtual subjects, colonizing the future of space for the eventual and actual subjects of what I call universal capitalism.
The conclusion of the project offers imagery from post-apocolyptic TV shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead, as visual antidotes to the futures represented by commercial space companies and the insistence that a better tomorrow is composed of more of today. The Walking Dead is additionally used to demonstrate how post-apocolyptic visual narratives can serve to combat the complacency that accompanies the idea that there are no possible alternatives to current systems. Such visual narratives remind us that alternative futures are possible and that capitalism is not an innate human ontology. Rather than rely on utopian hope, we must constantly seek out loci that hold the potential to inspire political agency and perhaps create futures worth remembering.