The Enclosure movement had begun to claim swaths of public land for private ownership, disrupting people’s previously more animistic connection with their surroundings and, therefore, says Rose, with magic. “That conflict contains all the things that I’m interested in: the occult and the rational; the fragility of the structures we live with, and how recent some of the things we think have been here forever might be,” she says. “It’s been traced as the end of feudalism and the beginning of capitalism, and I was interested in what was happening in this exact little spot of the world in this moment that has so many roots in the way we live today.
Rose comes from a prominent real estate family who have, over several generations, donated generously to New York institutions such as Lincoln Center and the American Museum of Natural History, although visual art was not a specific theme. “I grew up more around music,” she says. “My dad had an experimental-jazz record label. ” Her parents, Jonathan Rose and Diana Calthorpe Rose, also founded the Garrison Institute, a spiritual retreat in upstate New York dedicated to protecting the environment and social justice.
She’s talking about robotics and time travel, or cryogenics or drones one minute, and thinking about history, including painting, and 19th-century children’s-book illustrations the next; it’s all just material to her. ” Wielding this plurality, both with her camera and in the edit suite, has allowed her to create a vivid new aesthetic language. “Rachel is about mixed realities,” Obrist says. “She thinks AI, she thinks augmented reality, she thinks VR; she’s analog, she’s digital.
Suddenly, as a video artist, everything was open to her: Images, sound, drawing, found footage, original footage, technology, history, the environment, anxieties, painting, story, installation could all be part of her vision. “And almost immediately, the work was just so much better,” Gillick says. “It was a revelation.
Her success is all the more remarkable given that a few short years ago she was ready to walk away from art entirely. Newly enrolled in the M. F. A. program at Columbia, in which she had embarked as an abstract painter, she hit a wall. “I was in a major crisis of thinking that art was not the right place for me and I had fucked up by going to grad school,” says Rose, who earned a B. A. at Yale and an M. A. at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art. “I was just filled with doubt.
Rose was just 27 when she began work on Lake Valley, and “all of a sudden I had a career I was responsible to,” she recalls. “It felt like a second stage of growing up, and I was curious about what being an adult means. ” She took a deep dive into the history of childhood—a relatively recent concept distinct from children being considered simply miniature grown-ups—and the world of fairy tales, so often hinging on ideas of displacement, loneliness, and abandonment.
The new piece, filmed with actors and a script, returns to the agrarian England of Wil-o-Wisp, but from a new perspective. “I was interested in the people who were seizing the land,” she says. “It has a very different narrative and aesthetic, but is also concerned with magic. ” After that, she has still bigger plans: “I want to make feature films.
Only an ad hoc collage stuck to the wall with torn blue tape breaks the austerity: verdant landscape photographs, intricate drawings, a printout of a poster in vivid colors for a 1964 Japanese movie, Kwaidan, by Masaki Kobayashi. “I don’t think too much about those,” she says casually of the images. “They’re left over from different projects.
If her parents were children of the ’60s, Rose is part of an equally world-changing generation. “You can’t even say it’s post-Internet,” Iles says. “The Internet is our world; it’s the air we breathe.
Segues are her brushstrokes. “Rachel has an outstanding capacity to bring images together, to make junctions between them and link them to all kinds of different stories,” Obrist says. “In an age where we live in a more and more exponential explosion of images and information, it’s amazing that someone can create her own amalgam of images in such a precise way.
On the practical side, it was her first foray into animation, with its imperative of telling a story purely through images. “What I’m trying to accomplish,” she says, “is to take something I feel very specifically, like this question around adulthood and loneliness, and find other places that contain that same feeling.
Just 32, she has already had a number of solo museum shows, most recently with her film Wil-o-Wisp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Turin’s Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. (It is currently playing at her London gallery, Pilar Corrias, through March 30. ) Rose works on serial, long-term, and very different pieces.