The work of Rosa Barba stands between the tradition of science fiction film, documentary and, pushing the boundaries of the screen and occupying exhibition space, expanded cinema, also called exhibition cinema. The film installation Bending to Earth (2015) is inscribed within one of the chief lines of the artist’s investigations: her interest in different uses of desert zones and the traces progress and human action leave on land.
The current geological era can be characterised by the profound impact of man on the Earth, their activity leading to far-reaching changes to the landscape resulting from the avaricious consumption of available resources. In Bending to Earth (2015), Rosa Barba focuses on places storing radioactive waste to reflect upon the human footprint and its prolonged ramifications. She shows us the mysterious structures built for the long-term storage of radioactive waste in the desert zones of California, Utah and Colorado, examples of landscapes radically transformed by civilisation and technology. The film, shot from a helicopter using a handheld camera, brings together a series of sequences filmed in a circle around the black pyramids amassing nuclear waste while a voiceover describes, as an archive, the materials of these constructions and the type of toxic mixes there. The artist’s concern with the narrative techniques of film is pertinent and a resource she employs by combining image, text and music with projection equipment and the dismantling of genres in a mix of documentary and fiction.
In addition to the exploration of nature, technology is another concept which traverses Barba’s film-making. The repetitive nature of sequences and the circular rhythm of images find their real transcript in the room’s projection device: a loop system developed to guarantee that the film is presented as a perfect circle, an endless loop. This film equipment adds an in-person, sculptural quality to the work and turns the intangible nature of the film image, made up of light, shadow and time, into something physical. In the artist’s corpus of work, the projector creates real-time information: it is the mechanism that somehow anchors the present, a time of accumulation, climate crisis and finite resources, one which refutes the linearity of the time of progress. Sites of radioactive waste appear as time capsules projected towards the future and which, over hundreds or even thousands of years, will maintain the remnants of our civilisation as a reminder of humanity’s attempts to tame nature. They place us in a suspended time between nuclear disarmament at the end of the Cold War and radioactive waste generated by nuclear energy — contamination that perhaps has an end in the ecological future to come, the source of such concern for the artist.