German-Italian artist Rosa Barba makes gentle but powerful films that are a testament to memory creation, documentation, and representation.
Sometimes, her work is quite literally made of film: she has sculpted film strips and, in another work, created a sculpture from a projector that spews film onto the floor. Her work also often incorporates archaic celluloid projection devices as monuments to past ways of creating narratives and records.
Barba’s “In a Perpetual Now,” which opens August 22 as part of the long-anticipated reopening of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie after a years-long refurbishment, will present a mix of cinematic works and sculptural pieces that were created between 2009 and 2021.
Her hard-boiled conceptual approach to filmmaking will face-off with a major show of works by Alexander Calder, both set against the stark metal and glass of the famous Mies van der Rohe building.
We spoke with the artist about why a walk with her dog is the best way to get un-stuck at the studio, and her favorite recent show in Berlin.
Studio Rosa Barba. Photo: Mizuki Kin © Rosa Barba
What are the most indispensable items in your studio?
A punch machine (letters and holes), a typewriter, lead letters, a screen, models, couch, crosshead screwdriver, iMacs, a fridge filled with film cans, RAL fans.
What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?
Rehearsing with an eclectic choir for my voice engine piece.
What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work?
One that allows things to flow.
Rosa Barba Plastic Limits – For the Projection of Other Architectures, 2021. Film still © Rosa Barba. Courtesy Esther Schipper.
Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?
I love music sometimes for working, silence at other times, but podcasts rather in bed.
What trait do you most admire in a work of art?
The trait that starts here and opens up a new there.
What trait do you most despise?
The trait that starts here and finishes here.
Rosa Barba Studio. Photo: Mizuki Kin © Rosa Barba
What snack food could your studio not function without?
Who are your favorite artists, curators, or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?
I enjoy conversations with them rather than following social media.
When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?
Take my dog for a walk.
Rosa Barba’s From Source to Poem (2016). Installation view at CAPC Bordeaux, 2016. Photo: Arthur Pequin © Rosa Barba
What is the last exhibition you saw (virtual or otherwise) that made an impression on you?
Leonilson at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin.
If you had to put together a mood board, what would be on it right now?
A fog machine.
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