Rosa Barba’s work is a fine interrogation and co-opting of the industrial cinema as a subject, through various shapes which can be considered as a “set up”…The effect of her work questions and revisits truth and fiction, myth and reality, the metaphorical and material thinking, up to a point that can disorient … a conceptual practice that changes the spectator’s set-up as an act of radical and hilarious inversion – from receivers of an image (subject to an external control) we find ourselves in and in the middle of the engine room, looking outside. (Ian White, 2011)
Central is the new work Drawn by Pulse, a 35mm mute kinetic sculpture that combines astronomical researches and cinematographic techniques. The work addresses the ‘cinematic’ discovery of Cepheids, the flicker of the stars, by the American Astronomer Henrietta S. Leavitt (1868–1921) who worked at the Harvard College Observatory as a so-called ‘Harvard human computer’, like all the women who carried out the repetitive task of studying photographic plates, as part of a research into the properties of the stars.
“I was intrigued about how stars actually work like a film projector and how Henrietta S. Leavitt was working like a filmmaker". (Rosa Barba) Shot at the Harvard Astronomical Observatory, it is dedicated to Leavitt's researches on the observation, quantification and calculation of colour and brightness of the stars made visible by the photographic plates produced by Harvard's telescopes. Through her groundbreaking discovery the Universe appears much larger than anyone thought it was before.
In Language Infinity Sphere the artist continues the semantic research on the language. The work is the result of a performative act: with a single and repetitive motion, the artist moves on the canvas a heavy sphere completely covered in typographical lead characters – acquired through inheritance by an Italian printing house that closed after 40 years– creating a fragmented text. The work is a rebellion against the rarefaction of contemporary language.
For the series Footnote (…being able to perceive it...) a handwritten text fragment, exposed on 70mm film, has been back-lighted and anchored as an endless loop - a continuous thought. The text deals with subjects connected to the definition of space. In Near the Small Magellanic Cloud a drape of felt with a cut-out text is taken from a page of Henrietta S. Leavitt's manifesto, whose invention was not recognized at that time. The work creates a double reading level: on the felt and on the text projected onto the wall.
In the basement the film sculpture Focus Puller projects a text from a glass surface to another, trying to make it visible This work was developed for the exhibition "Rosa Barba: Subject to Constant Change", at the Margate Turner Contemporary in 2013, where a series of sculptures and movies were linked to Turner's lectures on perspective. Like other works based on language, the projected text is a sort of enigmatic monologue that revolves around a thought or an idea.
In the next room is presented Somnium, a 16mm film inspired by the namesake story of the astronomer Kepler (1634), considered the first scientific treaty on the lunar astronomy that presented an imaginative and detailed description of how the Earth could appear from the Moon. "Borrowing Kepler’s title in tribute, she has drawn upon both his tale and, equally importantly, his remarkable achievement in establishing a new ontology of vision.” (from Lynne Cooke, “Suspended Stories: Rosa Barba’s strategic narrativity").
Shot in Rotterdam in a location designed for a future port that will be operational by 2030, Barba introduces in her recording a surreal and uninhabited landscape that captures the science fiction tone of Kepler's story. Different levels are intertwined, the periods of time become relentless and geographically uncertain. The lines between facts and fiction are resolved in the poetic language of the movie's narrative, matched with Jan St. Werner's music.
On the floor there is the light installation Pensiero Spaziolungo. The work, as part of a works series in filigree neon tubes created and presented for the first time in the 16th century garden of Villa Medici in Rome, unfolds like a poem floating in space. Challenging to read from the ground level, the work is an image inscribed in its context, apparently conceived for a bird’s perspective.
Courtesy of the artist and Vistamarestudio.
Photos by Filippo Armellin