The work of the German-Italian artist Rosa Barba can be read against the background of an expanded notion of sculpture. In addition to issues of composition, the physicality and plasticity of form, time plays a central role. This aspect, combined with her interest in how film articulates space, sets work and viewer in a new relationship that is also mirrored in the content of her films. Each one is a topographical study of the ‘modern unconscious’. They are spaces of memory and uncertainty, which can be read as a reassuring myth despite the instability of the reality they depict. Barba’s filmic works alternate between experimental documentary film and fictional narratives and are not clearly fixed in time. They frequently focus on natural landscapes and human interventions in the environment and examine the relationship between historical records, personal anecdotes and filmic depictions.
In her solo exhibition Spacelength Thought at the Secession, Rosa Barba presents a selection of films, which more or less deal with the notion of the archive, as well as some of her sculptural works. With Somnium (2011) and Disseminate and Hold (2016) that are shown in turns at the outset of the exhibition, the artist introduces two significant aspects of her work: on the one hand, the relation to literature as source for and reference in her works, on the other her interest in an open notion of the archive. Somnium directly refers to the novel of the same name, which the astronomer, mathematician and natural philosopher Johannes Kepler wrote in 1608 and which is considered to be the first work of science fiction. The text describes an imagined journey to the moon, and how Kepler believed Planet Earth would look like when viewed from the moon. In Barba’s film, shot in Maasvlakte, an expansion area of the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest harbour, a disembodied voice reads passages from Kepler’s novel while a second, collective voice tells of how local residents and individuals who work here picture the future of this site. As in many of Barba’s works a marginal figure is the protagonist. In Somnium, only a single person is portrayed, a beekeeper, who despite progressing construction work still fosters his beehives here. To direct the attention to beekeeping and bees, of all things, and the essential role they play for the preservation of our ecosystem may indeed be considered a highly symbolic statement.