Art & Photography / Culture Talks

Rachel Rose on Reimagining Outer Space With Household Items

As The Infinite Mix draws to a close, the American artist discusses the unconventional techniques she used to create her filmic contribution to it – a sublime reflection on space and selfhood

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Rachel Rose
Rachel Rose, (still), Everything and More, 2015. HD Video, 10:31 min. Courtesy of the artist, Pilar Corrias Gallery, London and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York and Rome

There remains only one more week in which to experience The Infinite Mix – a satellite show of The Hayward Gallery, which has brought together some of the most cutting-edge audio-visual artists working today. Presented in the dark, immersive and somewhat overwhelming maze-like environment of The Store at 180 The Strand, the show is a unique experiential offering, featuring radically disparate works by the likes of Kahlil Joseph, Cyprien Gaillard and Martin Creed. Not least among the films screened, however, is Everything And More by Rachel Rose – an oddly emotional visual meditation which marries real audio from an astronaut being interviewed over a constantly interweaving lattice of imagery. It brilliantly communicates a sense of physical displacement.

The quiet self-reflective nature of the audio counter-balanced with disorientating, hypnagogic otherworldly visuals is the key juxtaposition which makes the film both so interesting and so unusual. Rose places the viewer almost in the position of moving through the visual (the audio, for example, is muffled as the camera plunges underwater), creating a point-of-view sensation of being in perpetual motion. The result is a deeply affecting and unusual reverie on the displacement of self and the vastness of outer space. Here, the artist tells AnOther how a mainstream science-fiction epic inspired her rich yet understated investigation into the relationship between the individual and the sublime.

On otherworldly experiences...
“When the film Gravity came out in 2013 or 2014, I remember walking out the theatre feeling disjointed, and with the sense of a certain separation from the street, the restaurant, the city around me… I was struck by how simply light, sound, and a dark room had so changed how I felt about being on Earth – even if it was for an hour. A few months later, I stumbled upon an interview with the astronaut Dave Wolf. I was alone in my apartment cleaning as I listened, and again, I felt this sudden separation from where I was. This triggered this need in me to work with this feeling — the feeling that we can so easily and suddenly separate from the conditions of being human.”

On looking beyond the void...
“In Gravity, space is imaged through robotic cameras, through a light-box and through an enormous amount of special effects. I wanted to try to image it with things all around us – like milk, oil and water. And I was struck by the fact that astronauts themselves train to be in outer space in pools of water. I wanted to bring this aspect out — that we can never get beyond our inherent composition; that something as sublime as being in a void is never really a void.” 

On the use of the everyday...
“I replicated photographs of the Earth from outer space using everyday household items, such as water, oil and food dye. I was looking back to both the methods of Jordan Belson and to those of Douglas Trumbull, who in 2001: Space Odyssey used very few ‘special’ effects as we think of them today, and instead worked with basic materials to image these sublime spaces. In each work, I’m using the artwork as a container for understanding more fully about what usually starts as a small feeling – this can be a sensation, unease, a sadness, an ecstasy. I use the artwork as a place to learn anything – from a technique to a history – that can connect this feeling to something outside myself.” 

The Infinite Mix runs until December 11, 2016 at The Store, 180 the Strand

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