Artist Rosa Barba to install a monumental film sculpture in the rotunda of the SCHIRN.

The Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting Blind Volumes, an installation realized by Berlin based artist Rosa Barba (*1972), from September 23, 2016 until January 8, 2017. In this work created specifically for the Schirn, in which she responds to the openly accessible public setting of the rotunda, Barba combines the artistic media of film and sculpture. Inside the rotunda, she has erected an expansive, geometrically intricate steel construction consisting of some 80 serial framework elements. The work is twelve meters tall and nearly fills the entire lobby of the Schirn. The complex structure, which resembles a building skeleton and calls to mind the Constructivist visions of the early twentieth century, confronts visitors with a wealth of possible associations.

Portrait Rosa Barba, Photo: Sara Masüger

Rosa Barba uses the installation as the stage for a dynamic choreography combining visual imagery, light, and sound. The artist also cites a selection of her own works, which are presented here in a new constellation. In addition to the film-based sculpture entitled One Way Out (2009) and Conductor (2014), a rhythmically pulsating sound object, the Schirn is also showing two new works by Rosa Barba in conjunction with the Blind Volumes exhibition: In White Museum – Live (2016), 70-mm and 16-mm film projectors appear as actors in an acoustically controlled light show. This work originated in a live performance of the same title presented by Barba in collaboration with the well-known US drummer Chad Taylor at MoMA PS1 in New York last spring.

The cinematic principle of montage

It represents a continuation of the White Museum series she first introduced in 2010, in which a rectangular film image is projected as a rectangular field of light into outdoor space from international museum buildings. About the Plate and Receiver (2016), a 16-mm film also featured in the exhibition, is a poetic reflection on space and time, the autonomy of technology, and the limits of human knowledge accompanied by electronic music. It is an outgrowth of Barba’s most recent installation in the White Museum series, a work she realized at the Hirsch Observatory of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The various film and sculptural works will be presented continuously in the Schirn rotunda in an arrangement conceived by the artist.

Model view of the installation at the Schirn's Rotunda © Rosa Barba

Esther Schlicht, the curator, about the installation: “In Blind Volumes, the installation designed for presentation in the rotunda of the Schirn, Rosa Barba transposes the cinematic principle of montage into a spatial, architectural context for the first time. Proceeding from that basis, she develops a polyphonic dialog through the interplay of new and previous film and sculptural works. In this way, her architectural vision becomes an archive of her own oeuvre and of the history from which it has emerged. For viewers, however, access to this archive remains fragmentary, for this multifaceted sculptural arrangement reveals itself in constantly shifting perspectives as they walk through and around it—but never in its entirety.”

Medium, material, and metaphor

“I’m working with a vertical, stacked stage for the first time in the Schirn’s rotunda. I always try to design my works in such a way that people can view their component parts, in technical and semantic, sensory and historical senses. Together, these parts make a composition, a story, or a picture and give form to an idea. Thus the different parts are points of departure for associations that point beyond the individual work,” explains artist Rosa Barba with reference to Blind Volumes, her installation conceived for the Schirn.

Rosa Barba, Above the Plate and Receiver, 2016, 16mm film, optical sound; 5 min., Film still © Rosa Barba

With her films, sculptures, and printed editions, Rosa Barba has created a conceptual oeuvre of concentrated poetic quality. Her works, which are often based on historical or site-based research, deal with such fundamental issues as the conditions imposed by media on time and memory or the reciprocal influences of form and artistic content. Film occupies the center of her attention—as medium, material, and metaphor, as narrative form and as a key factor in the shaping of twentieth-century visual culture. Barba usually shoots her films produced in the traditional 16-mm or 35-mm format at remote locations and weaves documentary and fictional elements together to form fantastical, suggestive works. Her sculptural objects and spatial interventions consistently refer to cinematic aspects and occupy the realm between material and immaterial presence. 

Born in the Sicilian town of Agrigent, Italy, in 1972, the artist and film-maker Rosa Barba has been living and working in Berlin since 2008.

Rosa Barba and Chad Taylor, Performance White Museum – Live