Q+A: Rachel Rossin
Art allows you to get lost in a world that is not your own. A piece of work can draw you in and for a moment you are mentally inside the artists' world. Virtual Reality art? Well that you can literally get lost in. You go beyond seeing and viewing, to actually interacting with the art and space around you and having a fully immersive experience.
An artist pioneering the Virtual Reality medium is Brooklyn based artist, Rachel Rossin. Rachel's studio is currently in Dumbo, as part of the Two Trees cultural subsidy program, and we honored her with a Dumbo Dozen at the 2020 Annual Meeting.
We caught up with Rachel to talk about how she approaches projects, her favorite shows that she has done and her favorite place in the neighborhood.
Tell us about yourself and your background story! How did you become interested in the Virtual Reality medium?
I grew up programming and I’ve been using Command Line since I was five but I started programming when I was eight. I was also really into video games. Most kids liked making art, but I was really obsessed with it.
What is the process like for you when you create an immersive piece?
When I approach any work or projects they will mostly start in virtual reality environments and I will treat them more as an observational painting. A lot of my work will come from a library that I’ve developed and have had since I was very young. I also have all of the assets and animations that I have made in my entire life. Some of those are hacked assets from video games which I made when I was twelve - it just varies. For my projects, I mine from that library of digital resources and then also analog resources like the drawings I made from when I was younger. But, generally, it’s more project-based and also depends on what the project is.
You are originally from Florida. What brought you to Dumbo?
The enormous generosity of the Two Trees cultural subsidy program is the reason I am in Dumbo and I am truly grateful for it.
We will see our devices move even closer to our bodies and even though that has some ethical implications, it does seem more likely to happen.
Do you have a favorite piece that you have done?
My show ‘Stalking the Trace' at the Zabludowicz Collection was a giant project and the most ambitious piece I have ever done as it was pairing of a lot of different interests. There was also a big installation which was an immersive six-channel video projection that ran for 15 minutes and worked in tandem with the virtual reality piece that the Zubludowicz Collection commissioned. I like that piece of work a lot.
Another piece which is also a favorite is my show ‘Lossy’ at the ZeiherSmith Gallery. This piece of work brought together virtual reality and painting. I also like the titles of both of them because it speaks to the work.
What have been your top career highlights?
My show 'Lossy' and being featured in the November 2017 Issue of Art Forum are highlights for me. In 2018, National Geographic did a mini-documentary of my work which was really sweet. Overall, it is the shows that I have done which are the things I am most proud of. From my solo shows at the Signal Gallery and working with Signal gallery which have been a huge part of my career here in New York, to working with ZieherSmith and Horton which was another gallery I worked with for my exhibition 'Lossy'. My work with The New Museum and also my exhibition with the Zabludowicz Collection. Those are all favorites of mine.
What’s next? Are there any projects you can share with us that you are excited to be working on?
Yes! The Hologram Combines! I started working on them last year!
The theme of this year’s annual meeting is Futurist! Being at the forefront of this medium, how do you anticipate you will change the game in virtual reality art? What are you excited about in this space in the next decade?
I think mostly we will be seeing Virtual Reality (VR) as a distinct medium, but, I feel like it will probably stay the same. Augmented Reality (AR) will definitely change a lot. The umbrella for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality is Extended Reality. But AR and VR are very distinctly different. VR will probably move more into a social space like VR chat which is one of my favorite applications. The application basically lets you choose your avatar and hang out in a multiverse. It's all user-generated and really incredible. So, I think VR will continue to expand in a way that it's full version. It’s not incredibly practical but we’ll see. While I’m not too concerned with making predictions, what does seem very likely is that AR will move into the consumer space because it makes a lot of practical sense on an infrastructure level. We will see our devices move even closer to our bodies and even though that has some ethical implications, it does seem more likely to happen.
Do you have a favorite place in Dumbo?
Usagi and Burrow bakery are my two favorites. They are magical places. Usagi is a little gift shop and bookstore that has incredible poke and amazing coffee I always go there to get my coffee and for lunch. The people that work there are incredibly nice as in otherworldly nice and the place is kind of my one-stop-shop for inspiration. I even got my Christmas gifts there! If I am stuck in a problem at the studio, I go to Usagi and just spend time with the books.