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