Who? Stepping into the enormous white tent constructed in Regent’s Park for the occasion of Frieze feels something like walking into an alternate universe. It's all centrally heated, carefully lit and perfectly insulated from the world outside, ready to bombard your senses instead with the art bonanza going on inside it. Imagine how surreal a sensation it is, then, to enter this building, and then to get down on your knees and crawl into a replica of that same tent – carpeted, lit, and filled with a sound installation to replicate the park, and the larger tent outside it – with other, similarly doubled-over visitors. It’s the matryoshka doll of art fairs, and as you can imagine, in a room full of willing participants it’s pure delight.
The artist responsible for getting the most famous figures from the global art scene down on their hands and knees is none other than Rachel Rose. 29 years old and based in the USA, Rose created the project after being chosen from 1,200 contestants to win this year’s edition of the Frieze Artist Award, a prize which allows an emerging artist to realise a major commission at the critically acclaimed fair. You’d be foolish to assume that Frieze is the highlight of her calendar year, however – she also has independent exhibitions opening this month at New York’s newly reopened Whitney Museum, Turin’s Castello di Rivoli and the Aspen Art Museum, with no small number of recent shows behind her. In fact, she's on something of a roll.
What? As it turns out, the boundary between inside and outside which is under examination in her Frieze commission is one that Rose addresses repeatedly in her work. Just a little way south-west of Regent’s Park, Rose has also taken over the Serpentine Sackler Gallery this autumn, with a unique and site-specific installation which interweaves two of her most recent video works – A Minute Ago, and Palisades in Palisades – both of which explore the flattening of space and time.
The former begins with what the gallery describes as “a sudden and apocalyptic-like hailstorm in Siberia,” which is accompanied by a sound recording of Pink Floyd’s Echoes and followed with Rose’s own footage of architect Philip Johnson’s Glass House. “The work was a way of bringing this question of 'what is the relationship between catastrophe and collage, and how is this inflected in very everyday circumstances of buildings around us?'” Rose explains in a short video made for the gallery’s website. The second, Palisades in Palisades, takes a very different stance. In it, Rose uses a remote control camera to achieve very distant and very close-up shots linked with fluid motions, creating the surreal impression that the entire duration of the film has been taken in one shot. In this way, it links a girl standing on the banks of the Hudson River, at the Palisades Interstate Park in New York, to different moments in that same ancient landscape’s long and varied history. It's neat, effective, and utterly disorientating in its treatment of spatio-temporal boundaries.
Rose’s concept-driven work is centred around experiences, so rather than placing two very separate works side by side in the show, A Minute Ago and Palisades in Palisades are linked together by a sound-piece, inspired by the gallery’s surrounding environment, in which the soundtracks of the two films mimic one another. Lighting was also a major concern for Rose when creating the installation. “I really wanted to work with projected light and natural light together,” she explains in the Serpentine film. For that reason, “all the windows in the gallery are open, and you’ll notice that when you watch the videos you can sometimes see the view outside the window in one of the galleries; you’ll notice the reflection of natural light coming in as the projected light goes out.” Thus, the installation functions harmoniously with its environment, both challenging and complementing the world around it.
Why? Rose's work is unlike anything else you'll see. By creating concept-driven film and installation-based artworks, the artist has crafted a complex and multi-layered practice which can only truly be experienced in its designated space, and in real time. It can’t be snapped and posted on Instagram, or neatly summed up in 140 characters for the online world to consume, and it’s all the more powerful as a result. “Her videos urgently probe into some of the world’s most current and pressing concerns," Serpentine co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist explains, "as she tackles the issue of humanity’s changing relationship to the natural world and our growing use of technology." Probing and exploring complex ideas about human beings and our engagement with the spaces around us, Rose is creating boundary-pushing work which is paradigmatic of the questions our pervading contemporary society – and the art world, unfazed by her youth, is sitting up to listen.