Me, Myself & I: Interview with Rachel Rose
What inspired you to become an artist?
I have doubts about being an artist and I continue to have doubts about it, as well as about what art means in the world. I don’t know if something has inspired me to be an artist. Maybe I've evolved into a position of being something that’s called “an artist”.
What gives you the doubts?
It’s hard to know what is meaningful and what isn't.
How did you get to the production of meaning? It’s a very interesting way to describe what your art practice is about.
Living is struggle for meaning. Every choice I make everyday is a decision that means something: what I eat, where I go, what I’m wearing, how we’re speaking together right now. And art for me is an extension of that; the struggle to find some reason for being alive; a reason to do anything. Art is a concentrated place of those decisions.
For instance, Everything and More. What meaning would you like people to glean from that?
I can’t say what I’d like other people to glean from it, because I don’t know what it will mean to other people. For me it’s more about the process of making the work. The process of making the work acts as a container for me to dig into something that I need to work through; something that has come up for me and keeps returning. Then through making the work, I connect that feeling to something real.
Why were you attracted to Dave Wolf’s story?
It came from seeing Gravity and Interstellar in the same time period. After I saw both works, I felt a sense of physical detachment, a loosening from the world around me.
I couldn’t get this feeling out of my head, especially after I’ve seen both works; it was constant. I wanted to think about this idea, but I want to think about it in a realistic way. I didn’t want to approach it through special effects and fantasy, but through real world examples of people who have experienced this loosening or shifting and that perceptual state, because their bodies are extracted from all of the conditions that are fundamental to the way that we perceive here (on earth). That’s what led me to get excited about working with an astronaut. I came across an interview with Dave online, and then I sent a bunch of hand-written letters and emails to get in touch with him. I searched everything on the Internet I could find that was related to him, and I finally interviewed him a few months later. I shot Everything and More in a Neutral Buoyancy Lab – where astronauts used to go to practice spacewalking, and I thought how basic and everyday water is as a tool for this. I also shot the chemical mixtures you see, which are just milk and ink and food dyes, things from my kitchen. I was looking at early forms of special effects, when they were created with everyday materials like this.
Why did you want to include that in your video?
Because I wanted to feel how we can experience this infinite perceptual state through the everyday, through our bodies and our physical limitations That was an important thread for all the disparate elements in the video.
So when you went to the Lab, was it just you? Did you have people with you? Do you shoot by yourself?
It really depends on what I need. I’ll shoot things myself, sometimes I work with a camera operator. For the shots coming in and out of the space shoot I worked with a camera operator; for a lot of the GoPro shots underwater I put a GoPro on a pool and brought it up and down to create this amphibious shot.
What were the biggest challenges for you with Everything and More?
Dave’s story is remarkable – I interviewed him for hours and there was endless content. I had tolimit it and use the footage I was working with in a way that felt related and not literal.
Is it difficult for you to make choices? The editing process is about making choices, so I’m just curious if that problem arises.
Editing for me is like writing, it’s where I make the work. My timeline is choices that are always getting moved around, shaped and shifted. I don’t know if it’s difficult for me to make choices, because that’s a lot of what I do. Putting everything together and being in that crisis is making something.
Does Everything and More have anything to do with being site-specific for the Whitney?
It does. We projected the video into semi-translucent screen that’s in front of the window, which is part of the building’s architecture. At certain moments in the video you are very much in the work and in other moments you are looking to the outside. Whenever there’s a black in the video projection, that reads on the scrim as translucent, opening a view to the outside city, placing you in the Whitney Museum at that time of day, in that moment. When the projection is brighter, the screen turns opaque, and you are within the virtual space of the video.
In your video, you move in and move out seamlessly. Is that a theme throughout your work?
Every installation that I do is specific to each video. There’s no one way that work is installed. There are conditions that go alongside that work, to do with sound, scale of screen, light, where you sit, etc., but those conditions are always re-thought specifically to the building and to what the feeling of the work is.
I was reading about the soundtrack, I thought it was brilliant. Can you speak about that?
I looked at the singing voice and Dave’s voice through a spectrograph, a visual of all the frequencies – that allows you to hand erase frequencies. I used this tool to erase all the frequencies around the singing voice, so that you felt her sound as a human frequency that had been detached, moving in emptiness. This was like how I had imagined Dave’s body, floating in space. I erased out all her words, her voice was a pulsation, while his voice because of how he spoke and because of how I recorded it, had flatness. Using the spectograph was a way of putting these two were in one state together.