‘Cinema is an investigation that allows time and space to vibrate, collapse, overlap and extend. It is a thinking space with no linear direction.’ — Rosa Barba
Terrestrial and celestial realms intersect and collapse in Italian artist Rosa Barba’s flickering explorations of time and space.
In her first solo exhibition in Australia, Rosa presents a selection of works from the past decade at PICA, including 16mm and 35mm film, sculpture, installation, and text-based works. Situated between experimental documentary and fictional narrative, Rosa’s film works examine the relationship between historical record, anecdote, and filmic representation to create spaces of memory and uncertainty, more closely resembling myth than the reality they represent.
The exhibition revolves around her long-standing explorations of the connections between film and astronomy, and their shared engagement with light, time, and distance. Films include Drawn by the Pulse (2018), shot at the Harvard College Observatory and dedicated to American astronomer Henrietta S. Leavitt (1868 – 1921) whose study of the brightness and rhythms of the ‘flicker’ of stars (also a film term) revolutionised our understanding of the size of the cosmos. In The Color Out of Space (2015), images of shimmering stars and planets collected at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, are projected through a series of coloured glass panels while the voices of scientists, writers, and artists ruminate on the universe and its enigmas.
Also on view is Somnium (2011), a Latin word meaning ‘dream’ and the title of German astronomer Johannes Kepler’s novel, written in 1608 and considered the first work of science fiction. Somnium documents the environmental damage caused by the expansion of Europe’s largest harbour, the Port of Rotterdam, while two narrative voices (and times) transform the location into another mysterious planet.
Interlocking themes of astronomy, science fiction, and environmental change unfold across the exhibition, calling attention to the limits of human knowledge and our relationship with the world and galaxy around us.