Your Art Weekend: Rachel Rose at the Whitney

Your Art Weekend: Rachel Rose at the Whitney
Header Image: Rachel Rose, Everything and More (still), 2015. HD video. Courtesy Pilar Corrias, London.

by Aimee Rubensteen

The Whitney Museum of American Art has become somewhat of a boisterous younger cousin to Disney World. The long lines for admission to the museum remind me of waiting forty-five minutes to ride Thunder Mountain. The Renzo Piano- designed galleries are bursting with colors and media and tourists. Rachel Rose’s video installation, however, is worth the noise. 

Rachel Rose, Everything and More (still), 2015. HD video. Courtesy Pilar Corrias, London. 

Everything and More
(2015) marks New York-based artist Rachel Rose’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Tucked in the Whitney’s fifth-floor George and Mariana Kaufman - Kaufman Astoria Studios gallery, Rose’s video installation quiets the Whitney crowds. When entering the gallery, the room is dark and the screen is black. Voices in the video can be heard but are inaudible. This sensation of incoherence is an effective introduction for what follows.

In just 11 minutes and 33 seconds, the high-definition video, explores human perception and sensory experience with a montage of images, sound and light. Based on interviews the artist conducted with NASA astronaut David Wolf, the video describes the extreme environment of outer space with flashes of footage from electronic dance music (EDM) concerts, music sung by Aretha Franklin and visuals of mixed oils, food dyes and other products.

Rachel Rose at the Whitney. © Alex Welsh for the New York Times

The astronaut narrates the video by explaining the contrast of how his body felt in zero gravity during his time aboard the Mir Space Station from September 1997 through January 1998, and what happened when he returned to earth. Back on earth, his senses were overwhelmed with the most mundane details – his wristwatch felt like a bowling ball; he experienced the scent of grass as sharply as a dog. The rhythm of the video slows down and speeds up as David Wolf recounts his sense of smell, sight and touch, while the distorted images of milky substances ooze and flow and mix with darker, thicker oils to create paintings in motion on the screen. The fragmented footage of concerts elevates the wondrous moment of hearing music live, and so loud your heart beats in your ears. Rose cleverly stitches these sensory experiences together in a way that demands attention, as they appear on the screen as quickly as they disappear. 

Photographs of the film in progress from the author, Aimee Rubensteen.

Everything and More builds to a moment when the astronaut’s voice is heard again, this time underwater, and the images of a spacesuit start to literally split and crack ever so slowly, like a kaleidoscope. The sound of water dripping is amplified and then fades out when Aretha Franklin starts singing a lyric-less ballad. All at once the two-dimensional screen provides an immersive experience for the viewer. Though the astronaut continues to talk about seeing earth from the cosmos and the sphere’s jewel-like tones floating in blackness, the viewer is slightly hypnotized. Finally, as if stepping off the spaceship with the astronaut, the viewer’s vision feels hyper-sensitive to the last frame – a blinding bright white.

Rachel Rose, Everything and More (still), 2015. HD video. Courtesy Pilar Corrias, London.

A keen eye is necessary to keep track throughout Rose’s visual, euphoric odyssey. And, that is precisely the point. Rose purposely prepared the video installation with special films and semi-transparent scrims, so the viewer would be aware of her own act of watching the video, and the visible environment outside the window of the gallery. For a generation of museum-goers obsessed with selfies, the Whitney might be a wild ride, but Everything and More has something profound to teach. The act of seeing—not just looking at a screen—but really observing the world through our senses, is as paramount as ever.

Rachel Rose: Everything and More is on view through February 7, 2016.


Jump on the subway, and head to Café Petisco for a bite on the Lower East Side. The quaint joint is always bustling with a crowd of locals hungry for Mediterranean (and some Italian and Mexican) food. Go for brunch and order anything that has the Za'atar spice included. Your taste buds will thank you. Be sure to order a Bloody Mary, too. You won’t believe me until you see it, but for five bucks, the Bloody Mary is served with a crispy grilled cheese sandwich! All hail the chef who birthed this great delight. Café Petisco is located at 189 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002.