At the Serpentine, Rachel Rose Zooms in on History

THE DAILY PIC: A young video artist figures out how to get close to the past.


THE DAILY PIC (#1414): This is a frame from a video called Palisades in Palisades , by Rachel Rose – which is one of her works that I didn’t get to mention in the profile I published yesterday in the New York Times. A version of the video is now part of an installation in Rose’s solo at the Serpentine Gallery in London.

My still is taken from a lovely passage which begins with a distant view of the young woman who’s the video’s main character and then, without a single cut, keeps coming closer and closer and closer until we’re looking at the fibers in her sweater. I’ve never seen anything like it in video art (although I’m sure cinephiles will be able to cite precedents).

It was even more impressive to hear from Rose that it was done without any high tech, in a moment of absurdly manual, almost artisanal moviemaking: The camera was mounted on a steadycam rig and, as the videographer moved ever closer to the actress, Rose simply kept refocusing the lens to keep her subject crisp while a helper adjusted the exposure.

Rose’s video was set and shot on the New Jersey palisades facing Manhattan, where some of the American Revolution played out, and you can read it as an impressionistic essay about how our past is never quite left behind: Her footage cuts back and forth between (among other things) the Palisades now and Old Master paintings of Revolutionary scenes. With her 30-second zoom, Rose told me, “I was trying to get at this idea of history – that it’s this thing that’s really far away, but actually, when you get up close to it, it’s just as sensual and material as our life is right now. And to translate that into the movement of the camera.” (Image courtesy Rachel Rose, via Pilar Corrias, London)

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