Definition Landfill was created as an analogue film in 2014 during a residency in San Antonio. The installation-like film work is the portrait of a monumental landfill overgrown with grass not far from Los Angeles. In the space, the man-sized 35 mm projector documents the physical, even sculptural presence of the film event. Stretched over nearly endless rolls and loop lashings, the narrative and pictorially powerful story of the unreal landscape monument is projected onto a massive, freestanding projection wall.

Within the film, Barba observes from the perspective of the circling helicopter an artificial elevation within a hilly landscape, scans it by means of the film material and then analyses it through the medium, image and language. It is a topographical perspective that offers the marvelling eye of the viewer images of a fantastic aesthetic and creates warm pictures in chrome with the dancing, kinematic light on the wall. An uncanny, almost nostalgic environment is created, reminiscent of the Expanded Cinema of the 1970s—such as Anthony McCall’s pioneering work Line describing a cone (1973) —and which can be walked through and in a certain sense accessed by the public.

In the linguistic analysis of the filmic narrative, Barba exaggerates in turn the logic of Conceptual Art by having a robotic computer voice read out her self-created definition of the term ‘landfill’. The monotonous voice, a typical voice recognition programme that is as artificial as the landscape it describes, speaks of the possibility of seeing the landfill as an arranged accumulation of found objects—in a certain sense as Readymades— so that they in turn reveal an independent work. It is a sardonic text that settles accounts with civilisation, which Barba has read out by a voice devoid of emotion. Barba’s scepticism in using the language of art targets a range of subjects, from the archaeological use of the term ‘landfill’ as an accumulation of artefacts, terms such as ‘earthworks’ which are borrowed from Land Art, through to American land appropriation, global over-utilisation, excessive exploitation and wastage. In the analogous recreation, the spatial-temporal dimension residing within the landscape can be experienced both physically and intellectually.

Barba’s engagement with landscape is analytical and visionary at the same time. It is marked by an ambivalent attitude towards the intoxicating beauty and power of the unsettling to be found in a culture rendered technological, systematic, and obsessively objectified.
Definition Landfill, 2014

35mm film, color, optical sound; 5 min

Image 1: Film still © Rosa Barba
Image 2: Installation view at Artspace San Antonio, 2014. Photo: Mark Menjivar © Rosa Barba