Creating a utopia through film
Using film of Kent and Manchester, artist Rosa Barba
is trying to create a utopia in her latest exhibition. Chris Price
Using film as art can feel pretentious yet the key to
understanding Rosa Barba’s work is to remember her simple, innocent
rule of thumb.
The Italian-German visual artist started working with
photography at an early age when she inherited a camera. She very
soon began experimenting with moving images using super eight
It was in these youthful years that she developed a sweet,
childlike thread to all her work. She would try to make her ideal
world from real photos and video.
“In my work I don’t observe reality; I am reinterpreting it in a
certain direction by making very personal decisions,” said the
Berlin-based artist, who was born in Sicily in 1972.
“I don’t pose critical questions; I am trying to invent a utopia
by showing political and social mechanisms set against technical
mechanisms which are themselves fragile.”
As with many artists, Rosa’s language becomes hard to follow
when she talks passionately about her work. However, it is clear
there is something simple and honest which she wants visitors to
see when her work goes on show at Margate’s Turner
She said: “The paradox which results from such a tension is used
to posit a utopian solution to the problem, a kind of magic which
stops time and offers a slowed-down view of otherwise hidden
aspects of reality. It offers an alternative reading of the past
and also the future.”
The exhibition, Subject to Constant
Change, will be Rosa’s most comprehensive solo presentation to
date. Two spaces will show distinct parts of a newly-commissioned
film work. Central to the exhibition will be Subconscious Society,
a new multi-part film installation, filmed in Kent and Manchester,
depicting a “society” trapped inside a deteriorating interior.
The exhibition runs alongside two other shows at the gallery:
Carl Andre’s Mass and Matter and a selection of technical drawings
from the Tate Collection, chosen by Rosa. These drawings include
pieces by JMW Turner, from his time as professor of perspective at
the Royal Academy, from 1807 to 1837. All three exhibitions open on
Friday, February 1.
Turner gave a series of lectures about perspective which were
famous for being extremely difficult to follow. So he made the
pictures as visual aids to hold up during the lectures to
illustrate his complex theories. Struck by their modern appearance,
Rosa saw a similarity to drawings’ explorations of points of view,
colour, and reflection, all key interests in her own recent
The exhibition gives insight into Rosa’s practice and the
structures underlying Turner’s paintings. Staff at the Turner
Contemporary could not agree more.
“The series of little known, wonderful perspective drawings by
JMW Turner perfectly complement Rosa’s new commission,” said Turner
Contemporary director Victoria Pomery.
Sarah Perks of Cornerhouse, the Manchester visual art and film
centre which has collaborated with Turner Contemporary for the
exhibition, said: “Rosa is one of the most exciting contemporary
artists pushing boundaries of film, sculpture and installation and
especially interested in working with communities in both
Manchester and Margate.”
Rosa Barba: Subject to Constant Change, and Turner’s
Perspective: Selected by Rosa Barba run at Margate’s Turner
Contemporary until Saturday, April 6. Admission free. Call 01843
Rosa Barba will meet visitors at the Turner Contemporary for
a Q&A on Wednesday, February 13, at 6pm. Tickets £6, £5
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