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Rosa Barba Biography

Known for working with analogue film as both a medium and a subject within her sculptures and installations, Berlin-based artist and filmmaker Rosa Barba has used film and its associated apparatus to accentuate natural and man-made environments.

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Early Life and Career

Born in Agrigento, Italy, Rosa Barba moved to Germany where she studied film and theatre in Erlangen, graduating in 1995. She went onto study at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, graduating in 2000.

From early on, Rosa Barba's artwork has been tied to an interest in analogue film. One of her earliest works to play with film and projection, Flight Machine (1999), required the viewer to pedal a bicycle at a specific velocity for a modified projector to show a film of a bumble bee in flight.

Film and Installations

Rosa Barba's seminal work has been in the field of film and installation, with the two often overlapping. Cinematic film installations and works that experiment with the mechanisms of projection have been a staple of her work. These have often been enhanced by sound and music.

The relationship between human action and environment has been a persistent element of her experimental films. Rosa Barba's Bending to Earth (2015) presents footage of fields of radioactive waste storage sites shot from the air. Similarly, Aggregate States of Matters (2019) examines the impact of climate change on the Andean glaciers and on the peoples who have lived near them for generations.

More than simply making films, Barba works with the ethos that 'a film is a performer.' In the seminal three-part film installation, The Hidden Conference (2010–2015), Barba simultaneously plays three films investigating museum storage facilities filmed in different years and locations. With overlapping soundtracks and different lengths, the films present the stored artworks as the protagonists, performing together to an ever-changing choreography.

Barba also uses to the means of projection as a medium. Her long-running 'White Museum' (2010–2019) series realigns the relationship of film, viewer, projection, and subject. Exhibition spaces are turned into a projection room with an apparatus projecting a field of light onto a specific area outside, making reality the fictive film. Barba additionally produces performance-activated installations that come to life with musical accompaniment. Her collaboration with percussionist Chad Taylor for In a Perpetual Now of Instantaneous Visibility (2019) sees the rhythm of drums and cello synchronised with shutters of projectors casting light rays. In Voice Engine (2021), commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam, which premiered at Callie's, Berlin, choral songs activate analogue projectors at set frequencies.

Inside the Outset

In 2013, Rosa Barba began working on a long-term site-specific project in Cyprus. Inside the Outset: Evoking a Space of Passage (2021) consists of a film shot in significant sites in Cyprus, and the building of an open air cinema in the buffer zone between Turkish- and Cypriot-controlled Deryneia.


Alongside her film-based interventions, Rosa Barba has also created standalone sculptural works. Among these are works like Language Infinity Sphere (2018), a sphere made of thousands of metal letterpress blocks. Throughout her career the artist has made a series of sculptures and prints using these obsolete letters.

Barba's Pillage of the Sea (2021), a permanent sculpture installed at sea in Ostend, Belgium, acts as a symbolic yardstick for rising sea levels. Each 'stone', created out of concrete casts of textiles and stacked like a cairn, symbolises the population of a city under threat from climate change. Each is arranged according to their relative position above sea level.


Rosa Barba's solo exhibitions include Rosa BarbaIn a Perpetual Now, Neu Nationalgerie, Berlin (2021); Touched by the Same Breath of Air, Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Finland (2020); Solar Flux Recordings, Palacio de Cristal, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2017); Rosa Barba, White Museum — Live, MoMA PS1, New York (2016); Back Door Exposure, Jeu de Paume, Paris (2012); Rosa Barba, Tate Modern, London (2010); and You Cannot Remain Indifferent, Fridericianum, Kassel (2005).

Barba's group exhibitions include Editorial Thinking, The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Stockholm (2021); Not I (Throwing Vocies), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2020); Fly me to the Moon, Kunsthaus Zürich (2019); Collecting Europe, Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2017); The Dying of the Light: Film as Medium and Metaphor, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (2014); Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution 1968—2008, Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago (2009); and Streams of Encounter, Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei (2003).

Further Information

Rosa Barba's website can be found here.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021

Rosa Barba Featured Artworks

Color Clock (yellow): Verticals Lean Occasionally Consistently Away from Viewpoints by Rosa Barba contemporary artwork sculpture, photography, moving image
Rosa BarbaColor Clock (yellow): Verticals Lean Occasionally Consistently Away from Viewpoints, 201235 mm film, motor, aluminum, Plexiglas
122 x 83 x 15 cm
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
Printed Cinema by Rosa Barba contemporary artwork print
Rosa BarbaPrinted Cinema, 2004Archival box set with 22 journal issues and subscription for future volumes
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
Sight Enables Us to Appreciate Distance by Rosa Barba contemporary artwork sculpture, photography, moving image
Rosa BarbaSight Enables Us to Appreciate Distance, 2013/201670 mm film, aluminium, LED, motors
180 x 260 x 17 cm
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
The Long Poem Manipulates Spatial Organizations by Rosa Barba contemporary artwork sculpture, photography, moving image
Rosa BarbaThe Long Poem Manipulates Spatial Organizations, 2014Modified projector, plinth, stencil cut, 16 mm film (colour)
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
From Source to Poem by Rosa Barba contemporary artwork photography, moving image
Rosa BarbaFrom Source to Poem, 201635 mm film (colour, optical sound)
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
Spacelength Thought by Rosa Barba contemporary artwork installation, moving image
Rosa BarbaSpacelength Thought, 201216 mm film, projector, typewriter, programming
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery

Rosa Barba Recent Exhibitions

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