Rose Kallal Portrait.jpg

Courtesy Rose Kallal


Multidisciplinary Artist Rose Kallal Taps into Dream Realms with Her Generative Installations

Published Friday, Jul 22, 2022

Artist Rose Kallal, whose practice spans installation and performance, has been experimenting with 16-millimeter film, video synthesis, and electronic sound throughout her career. Her cyclical, hypnotic works, which incorporate sound and visual projections, engage with generative art traditions and the history of expanded cinema, among other influences. For a recent Pace Live performance amid William Monk’s exhibition The Ferryman in New York, Kallal worked with musician and composer Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and UK-based musician Nick Monk to create an immersive, psychedelic environment. In the following interview, Kallal discusses the history of her practice and the collaborative Pace Live performance, which incorporated visual projections, modular synths, and Nick Monk’s instrument “The Machine.”
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Claire Selvin: To start, can you tell me a bit about your practice—when did you begin working with 16-millimeter film and electronic sound and why were you drawn to those mediums?

Rose Kallal: I started shooting 16-millimeter film in the mid 1980s, and in the 1990s I focused on photo-based work. I didn’t start playing music until the early to mid-1990s—I started with guitar and drums, and it was in the late 90s that I got interested in soundtrack music, more cinematic music. I bought my first synthesizer around 1997. In the late 90s, when I got back into film, I did the soundtracks for a few short 16-millimeter films I made, which was the first time merging my visual work with my sound work.

I started doing multiple 16-millimeter film loops with live sound performance in 2006, and have continued working with film loops since then, in live performance as well as installations and exhibitions.

CS: What are some of the ideas you engage with in your practice, and how do your works communicate or address those ideas? 

RK: My work with film loops taps into non-linear subjects and the unconscious mind, using repetitions to engage with hypnotic states and trance. My film loops feature repeating motifs and patterns, and, typically, my installations or performances use about three to four different film loops. Each film loop runs at a different speed, and at certain intervals they will kind of synchronize into different motif patterns.

At the Pace Live performance, there was this heavy use of repetition that taps into elemental processes. It’s definitely astronomical in nature, and in a lot of my recent work I’ll use video synthesis with some video feedback, which, again, engages with these fractal patterns and non-linear systems. This references generative art traditions—I’m tapping into different things that are visually expressed in the structure of the loops themselves. So, they kind of mirror each other. This all relates to wanting to create an immersive environment found in film—there’s a whole history with expanded cinema of the 1960s and 1970s and those explorations of consciousness as well. And my music’s use of drone repetition, which complements the repeated visual motifs, tries to tap into meditative states, hypnotic states, dream states.

CS: How would you characterize the relationship between your sonic landscape and visual projections in the Ferryman Pace Live performance?

RK: William Monk makes use of repetition, and his work is influenced by cinema and sound. So, I think we share some of the same sensibilities. A lot of my films are triptychs, and Will presented this three-venue exhibition with these tondo paintings. I specifically made the film piece for this performance after seeing his exhibition with Pace. This new film projection I made for the performance was similar to earlier pieces of mine that used circles, and I created the work through talking to Will, seeing the paintings, and knowing the exhibition space. After the film piece, then I did the sound—Will was really into drone and he said he’d been listening to drone music while finishing up his work.

In terms of the performance with Robert, we’ve collaborated quite a few times over the past ten years. We’re both pretty improvisational in the way we work, so I sent him the film piece with some sound ideas, and we mostly improvised in the live event. I think the drone sounds, the visuals, and Will’s exhibition all kind of interplayed to support this hypnotic, meditative atmosphere.

CS: How would you characterize the role of the modular synths and the role of Nick Monk’s "Machine” in the event? 

RK: For the live performance, “The Machine” did an intro and outro to the modular set that Robert and I created, with us interacting and improvising with “The Machine” during the transitions. Nick pre-programmed “The Machine” beforehand, so it’s a different process than how Robert and I worked. Nick’s “Machine” creates generative music, and while modular synths can be generative as well, “The Machine” was more structured, and Robert and I were more improvisational.

CS: What effects do you think the performance achieved vis a vis the audience's experience of Monk's exhibition?

RK: I think live performance offers a very different engagement with any space—I think it activates space in different ways. Bringing sound and cinematic elements to the exhibition helped support Will’s ideas and gave the show a different dimension. People saw and interacted with the paintings in new ways. It’s a good chance to incorporate an artist’s influences into the gallery space and I think performance also brings a different crowd to an exhibition. In the evening, too, people are in a different state of mind.

  • Essays — Multidisciplinary Artist Rose Kallal Taps into Dream Realms with Her Generative Installations, Jul 22, 2022