Philadelphia Museum of Art Presents a New Work by Rachel Rose, On View May 2 through August 18, 2018
Rose is the Inaugural Recipient of The Future Fields Commission in Time-Based Media Grant
The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present a new video installation by Rachel Rose, the inaugural recipient of the Future Fields Commission in Time-Based Media, which has been jointly awarded to the artist by the Museum and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. A project under development for nearly two years, this commission represents the most ambitiously scaled production in the artist’s career to date, leading to the creation of a work that will enter the collections of these two institutions. Titled Wil-o-Wisp, Rose’s work will be on view from May 2 through August 18, 2018, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It will then travel to the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Italy, where it will open in November.
Timothy Rub, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, stated: “Seeing this project evolve since the awarding of the commission has been deeply gratifying. It demonstrates just how vital it is for institutions like ours to support emerging talent at precisely the time when such support is needed. This collaboration with our partners in Turin has also provided a wonderful opportunity to expand and strengthen our engagement with contemporary art.”
In 2016, the two esteemed arts and culture organizations established the Future Fields Commission in Time-Based Media as a collaborative initiative to jointly commission and acquire new work by artists from around the world who are active in video, film, performance, and sound. The Commission supports the creation and production of a new work every two years that will be presented at both the Museum and the Fondazione. With its unique focus and its commitment to the joint acquisition of the works produced with the support of this initiative, the commission aims to give unprecedented opportunities to international artists who are exploring new territory in these experimental modes of contemporary art. Rachel Rose is the inaugural recipient.
Rachel Rose has emerged as an important voice in contemporary video, widely recognized for her deft digital editing that aligns disparate visual images and historical references. This new commission has provided her with an opportunity to widen the scope of her interests by investigating narrative devices and story-telling. In Wil-o-Wisp, the artist has directed a live action video in which a woman’s fate becomes inextricably tied to moments of upheaval, suspicion, and persecution in 16th century agrarian England, a time during which the Enclosure Movement led to the privatization of land throughout the country. The video follows various vignettes of Elspeth’s life, cycling between familial moments and tragedy, the practice of magic and her persecution.
Rose strings dramatic moments together with temporal shifts, varying rhythms, an emotive score, and carefully constructed visual effects. The work reflects upon the harsh realities of English rural life during a time of a rising culture of suspicion in which women, such as Elspeth, engaging in nontraditional healing practices were often seen as threatening to an increasingly regulated society. The title of the work, Wil-o-Wisp, refers to ghostly lights that could be seen hovering at night over bogs and marshes and that, in folklore, could have the sinister effect of leading people astray. In Rose’s work, the title speaks to the characters whose paths are determined both by willful choices and the power of coincidence.
Directing a cast and crew of about thirty people, Rose shot the work at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts, that offered a period setting of houses in an English vernacular style and an austere winter landscape. Working with both trained and street-cast actors, as well as Plimoth Plantation guides, Rose both utilized the character of the site and added to it, creating her own imagined world within this setting. From costumes to set decorations, Rose combined period and contemporary materials.
Rose’s video is characterized as much by her intensive approach to post-production as by the attention she gives to the script and on-set staging. After filming the work in Plimoth, she added components such as a narrative sung by an ethereal voice in iambic pentameter. Orchestral and electronical scores serve to gather momentum and produce an emotional effect. Animals and people generate ghostly doubles, and a bright green moss seems to take over the barren landscape. In this work, Rose also continues her use of Medieval marginalia: drawn characters that populated Medieval manuscripts are here collaged to form words announcing certain protagonists and moments within the larger narrative. These elements coalesce with the depicted dramatic events to create a world in which the circumstance of history meets the coincidence and magic of fate.
Installed as a single-channel video and approximately ten minutes in length, Wil-o-Wisp will fill a large gallery that will include an eighteen-foot widescreen. It will be framed within an environment which is currently under development by the artist.
Erica Battle, The John Alchin and Hal Marryatt Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, said: “While Rachel Rose’s carefully woven narrative is set in the past, it speaks to larger themes and concerns that are relevant to our world today. Wil-o-Wisp reflects the inescapable feeling that history is cyclical.”
Rachel Rose (American, born 1986) creates video installations that combine video, sound, and architectural elements. She has had solo exhibitions at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2017), the Aspen Art Museum (2016), the Museu Serralves in Porto, Lisbon (2016), the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London (2015), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (2015). She was the recipient of the Frieze Artist Award (2015), and her work is collected by prominent institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; LUMA Foundation, Arles; Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; Ishikawa Foundation; Tate, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. Rose received a BA from Yale University, New Haven, as well as an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and an MFA from Columbia University, New York.
The Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo is a foundation for contemporary art, set up in Turin in 1995 by contemporary art collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Active since 1992 at a personal level in the promotion of young artists, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo saw in the creation of an arts foundation the opportunity to transform her passion into an organized activity able to collaborate more effectively with Italian and international institutions. Since then, the Fondazione has gone on to produce an annual exhibition program that supports contemporary artists. It has also gone on to commission or co-produce highly influential works of contemporary art, for presentation at the Fondazione’s main space in Turin, or for biennales and festivals abroad.
Recent commissions include works and exhibitions by Adrian Villar Rojas, Ian Cheng, Ed Atkins and Steve McQueen. The Fondazione’s main aim is to encourage a greater understanding of contemporary art and of today’s leading trends internationally. The vast field of visual arts – painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation and performance – is analyzed and presented to the public not only through the exhibition program but also through an array of in-depth educational activities and events, such as conferences, talks led by artists, curators and critics from acclaimed Italian and international institutions.
This work will be the subject of a forthcoming book, Rachel Rose: Wil-o-Wisp / The Future Fields Commission, that will feature an interview with the artist conducted by Battle, a commissioned essay on the work, and materials documenting both the development of the project and its installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It will be published in Fall 2018 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and in association with Yale University Press.
This exhibition has been made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Daniel W. Dietrich II Fund for Contemporary Art, Lyn M. Ross, Emily and Mike Cavanagh, and Susan and James Meyer.