Rachel Rose | BOMB – Artists in Conversation

Aily Nash You started out as a painter, then you studied art history, and you’ve transitioned into making moving-image work for installation. How did you land in this current mode of operation?

Rachel Rose I was trying to expand what I thought I could do, or was interested in. In that process, I developed doubt about making art. Robert Irwin says that the key to the tool that you use to make something is whether it has the dimensions to deal with your questions. I was looking for a tool. Idealizing documentary films led me to learn how to research, write, shoot, edit, and design sound. That combination right now has the dimensions to deal with my questions.

AN What initially interested you about documentaries?

RR I didn’t understand how I could be an artist and also care deeply about the things around us that affect how we live and think. Art felt like a vacuum, so formal. Documentary film, to me, symbolically meant going out into the world, being openly curious, and then trying to make work that produced meaning from that.

AN You could investigate something?

RR Yes, going outside of myself and outside of the conditions that I thought made a thing a thing. But when I actually learned how to shoot, edit, put together a project–cold-calling people, travelling to shoot, I found that what I loved most was piecing those materials together. That itself also was meaning. Then I thought, I can’t be a documentary filmmaker. I’m too attached to the surface and the materiality of putting a work together and unfolding how that connects to the feeling within the work. So I guess I’m an artist.


AN By weather you mean global warming? Climate change?

RR Exactly. I don’t describe it that way because I want to address it not politically, not morally, but through its underlying structure and the feeling associated with it. In A Minute Ago I approached it from that perspective. But in all of my work it’s like that—I’m first marking the general feeling, the general territory I want to work in. Then I try to hone it down more specifically, maybe to some tangible experiences I’ve had with that thing. I sort of hyper-break it down for myself. For example, with A Minute Ago, it was an experience I had in a coffee shop when all of a sudden this crazy storm came in. There was a gust of wind, and then it went away. Everyone in the coffee shop paused and a few minutes later we just went on with our lives. I kept thinking about that and about glass as this barrier. So I looked into the history of glass and glass manufacturing. Looking around New York City, so many buildings are conceived around glass, and how did that come to be? My research led me to Ohio and I shot in a glass museum in Toledo. In the end I didn’t use that footage in the film. My research tends to be sprawling. It’s exploratory, very free-form, but I’m also simply trying to figure out what I’m going to do. The glass question led me to think about its equivalent in technology—compositing, which is basically collaging within the frame. I wanted to learn compositing in postproduction, and then I thought about compositing in-camera, which is how I arrived at the method I used while shooting in the glass house.


BOMB 133, Fall 2015

As Thiebaud puts it: “To call everything art is an obfuscation for the students and fails to clarify what we’re trying to get at as painters. Painting is concrete, but art is abstract. I don’t think we know what art is. But we know a lot about painting.”


Meanwhile, some painting professors enjoy the collapse of any shared convictions that painting has universal or core knowledge.


Gone is the idea that painting is understood only by groping one’s way to imperfect meaning through poetic expressions or universally understood metaphysical ideas.


“…capital operates through the production of subjectivities and thrives on extracting surplus value from the generation of social difference and individualization, not to mention the important ideological role played by self-actualization over and against collective identifications.”

Rory Rowan, “SO NOW!: On Normcore,” e-flux journal #58, October 2, 2014.

Tyler Akers: What is the function of using separate names Peter Lamborn Wilson and Hakim Bey?

Peter Lamborn Wilson: I call it ambulatory schizophrenia. You know, foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of etcetera etcetera. I just needed several identities, and those aren’t the only ones.


“…you can’t use violence because violence is completely monopolized by the state. We live in a police state, in communities that are occupied by armed forces…and we have welcomed them into our communities and it’s okay to have these guys going around with guns and guard dogs because we’ve accepted it. So. where’s the revolutiorion?”

Art and mediation:

“I think that every artwork is striving to break down mediation. That was the problem for me with traditional theater, and why I was interested in the avant-garde theater was the whole question of proscenium, the division between the audience and the performer. I’ve always said that the only solution is to get rid of the audience all together.”

“So after years of working on the radio and using lots of recorded music, I decided to take the step of eliminating it from my own house so that when I hear live music it really goes right to my heart and I pay full attention.”

In conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson, The Brooklyn Rail, Octer 4, 2012

“Adorno writes in Negative Dialectics that the concept of origin signifies the “seigniorial, the confirmation of him who stands first because he was there first; of the autochthon against the immigrant, of the settled against the migrant.” To evoke the concept of origin is to assert a demand for first rights. In speaking for origin, the primacy of history is claimed, but it is the unquestioned sovereignty of who is speaking that matters. It is as clear as it is cruel: he who speaks on behalf of origin proclaims dominion over the which follows him.”

Paul Chan, “Progression as Regression,” e-flux journal #22, January 1, 2011

On originality. Kill your father.

“All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.”

Oscar Wilde

I do think that there’s some truth in this statement especially when we consider it in relation to what drives and motivates an artistic practice. I am not sure how a practice can be entirely ‘pure’ or ‘sincere’ when in some ways or another we are inevitably part of a larger ecosystem and within its mechanism are at times complicit, in others, rebellious. There is a modality of expression through irony, there is an honesty in radically projecting your dishonesty. We have thoughts that we aren’t supposed to think about but are thinking about it anyways. That’s an aspect of radical vulnerability, that we are spectacular in all our miscomings.

All I am trying to say is that we have certain ideas and conception of what being ‘genuine’ or ‘sincere’ means. We romanticise these ideas and shame anyone who doesn’t feed into these categories. But these moments of ‘insincerity’ can point to some forms of lack in a person (whether it’s childhood repression, insecurities, etc.) and we’re all trying to navigate all that.

What defines what is ‘authentic’ and what is not?

“I believe that every artist means everything they’re doing, that no one is making art just to make money or pull the wool over people’s eyes. All artists may want to make money and be loved, but at base they are still serious about their art.”

Jerry Saltz, “My Life As a Failed Artist,” Vulture, April 18, 2017, accessed April 19, 2017, http://www.vulture.com/2013/03/saltz-on-the-death-of-art-gallery-shows.html.