‘It Always Comes Back to My Own Embodiment’: Watch Rachel Rossin Explore the Slippage Between Physical and Virtual Realities

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "New York Close Up" film, "Rachel Rossin's Digital Homes." © Art21, Inc. 2021.

At Magenta Plains gallery in Manhattan, a room is cast in ghastly burnt orange, and blues and purples glow. A screen plays images depicting an uncertain future where human autonomy and machine intelligence have merged. As the gallery puts it, Rachel Rossin’s artworks “offer a new poetics and visual language for the next epoch in technology, offering a critical response on what painting is for and its enduring significance in our tech-dependent society.”

The New York-based artist’s practice is also a fusion of technology and traditional painting, as well as of her past and present. Her artworks feature avatars culled from assets saved from video games that she hacked as a teenager in Florida, during a childhood where she found refuge in the alternate virtual realities. In an interview filmed exclusively for Art21’s New York Close Up series, Rossin recalls the genesis of her artwork.

“The way that I was making art before I knew it was art, it was like making homes. Just trying to find home,” Rossin explains. “Growing up, there was a lot of intensity and my parents were just fully, fully overwhelmed. So I think it was out of this idea, escapism does end up being necessary.”

That intensity reverberates through Rossin’s unsettling works, which mine the potential realities of artificial intelligence, and how the technology could pose challenges for navigating life and art in unexpected ways.

“It always comes back to my own embodiment,” she says. “And how to anchor this very abstract, loose space in the same dimension that I’m in.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series New York Close Up, below. Rachel Rossin: SCRY” is on view at Magenta Plains through August 11, 2023. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of news-making artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series, like New York Close Up and Extended Play, and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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