What is it like returning to Earth after spending 128 days in space? New York artist Rachel Rose, winner of the 2015 Frieze Artist Award, created a video installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art entitled EVERYTHING AND MORE which answers this question. The backbone of her work is an interview she conducted with retired NASA astronaut David Wolf. The juxtaposition of gravity and levity, odor and odorlessness, the physical experience of being on earth and in space are the subject of the narrative. Wolf remembers the heaviness of his watch, which felt like a bowling ball, and the weight of his ears. He remembers other sensations too: the Earth smells.
Rose’s rhythmic eleven minute video tells the story in swipes of oil and water which evoke Earth from afar—she was inspired by real images of the jewel that Earth appears to be from space. Interspersed are very different images from concerts which are tinted with the various colors seen from space, and other images are of a Neutral Buoyancy Lab—the astronaut’s training ground; the tank of water in which they experience weightlessness on earth. Aretha Franklin sings. To master the Aretha Franklin soundtrack she used a spectrograph, an astronomical instrument which allowed her to erase all background noises from the recording and isolate Franklin’s voice. Rose’s projection figures in the shadow of a Frank Stella piece on the balcony of the Whitney Museum behind the scrim.
Rachel Rose has taken inspiration from narrative films about space exploration such as GRAVITY and INTERSTELLER, and from the work of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY special-effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull. “Regardless of whether those films were good or bad, they put in relief for me the human experience on Earth in a sensorial, physical way,” she said in an interview with The Guardian.
Rose has made other work with science themes. She has filmed at zoos and in a robotics perception lab. She was in a group show about changing notions of consciousness in the digital landscape. Her solo show at the Whitney Museum is up now through February 7, 2016. The exhibition is in the fifth floor George and Mariana Kaufman-Kaufman Astoria Studios Gallery.
EVERYTHING AND MORE