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Rosa Barba

'Faring with Faraway'


26 March – 31 August 2021

Rosa Barba’s artistic practice typically engages film as both a narrative and a sculptural medium. In ‘Faring with Faraway’ she visualises with sound, using cinematic language, and various elements like a series of images. Together, they produce a hybrid, layered experience in which notions of time are both stretched and compressed.

‘Faring with Faraway’ includes fragments of archival interviews with certain figures whose lives have captivated Barba, selected from the spoken word recordings and oral history archives kept by the British Library. Voices, predominantly of women, recount life stories, with memories of childhood, family and working life. The speakers include the socialist educator Hilda Brown; Katharine Ramsay, Duchess of Atholl, the first Scottish woman elected to the House of Commons; and Mary Chamberlain, an early proponent of oral studies and women’s history. All of the speakers were activists and campaigners for the welfare of women, and the rights of children and refugees. Within their personal stories are certain hints towards the pervasive context of British Imperialism in the first half of the 20th century, testament to a socio-political heritage that continues to reverberate in the present.

Voices intermingling with environmental sounds, musical abstracts, birdsong and animals. A field recording of a cargo train captured by the artist as it passes through the town of Marfa, Texas provides a rhythmic leitmotif, carrying the sequence along. Here the women’s voices function more like instruments in dialogue, overlapping, blending, harmonising and chattering together, allowing the listener to transcend the archival material itself and appreciate its tonal nature as part of a larger musical composition.

Rosa Barba, ‘Faring with Faraway’ (2021) contains extracts of recordings held by the British Library Sound Archive.

‘Life story interview with the late educationist, Hilda Brown (1909-1996)’, reference C468/011 (1991).
‘Life story interview with Mary Chamberlain, oral historian,’ reference C1149/27 (2012-14).
‘Life story interview with the late Kathleen Halpin (1903-1999) who was an active member of the London and National Society for Women's Service (now the Fawcett Society) until her death,’ reference C468/002 (1991).
‘Life story interview with the late British Labour politician, Norah Phillips, Baroness Phillips (1910-1992)’, reference C468/014 (1992).
Patrick Sellar interviewed by Mark Peter Wright, ‘The wildlife recordist discusses his personal history and the formation of organisations and archives he helped to establish,’ reference C1672/2 (2013).

All five interviews © British Library.
[Patrick Sellar’s interview is part of the Wildlife Sounds collection]

Items held in the collections of the British Library Sound Archive
Katharine Ramsay, Duchess of Atholl, ‘The New Outlook for Women’ (1929). Original issue number: Columbia 5340.
Constance Ripman, ‘Breakfast Time’ (1939). Speakers: Sally Latimer, Henry Oscar, Pamela Ripman. Issued as part of the Linguaphone 'Let's Talk English' series, published by Dents, October 1946. Original issue number: Linguaphone English 2E1.

Artist Biography

Rosa Barba engages within the medium of film through a sculptural approach. In her works, Barba creates installations and site-specific interventions to analyse the ways film articulates space, placing the work and the viewer in a new relationship. Questions of composition, physicality of form and plasticity play an important role for the artist as Barba examines the industry of cinema and its staging vis-à-vis gesture, genre, information and documents. Her film works are situated between experimental documentary and fictional narrative. They often focus on natural landscapes and human-made interventions into the environment and explore the relationship of historical records, personal anecdotes, and filmic representation, creating spaces of memory and uncertainty.

She has had solo exhibitions at prestigious institutions worldwide (including Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Turku (2020); CCA, Kitakyushu (2019); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan; Malmö Konsthall (all 2017); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2016); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge MA (2015); MAXXI, Rome(2014); Tate Modern, London (2010); and has participated in numerous group exhibitions and biennials, including the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2016) and the 53rd and 56th Venice Biennale (2009 & 2015). Her work is part of important collections and has been widely published. In 2020, Barba was awarded the Calder Prize by The Calder Foundation.

This work can be listened to at home but we recommend listening with headphones whilst walking and spending time outdoors.

Part of 'In the open' – Series II

With thanks to Mary Stewart, Oral History/National Life Stories British Library, Chloe Reith and Stephan Mathieu.

Mastering by Stephan Mathieu /
Schwebung Mastering.
Design by Maeve Redmond.