“Rosa Barba’s Somnium (…) draws together many of the key concerns that have emerged in the artist´s oeuvre over the past decade. Its point of departure is a short story by the German astronomer Johanner Kepler. Although framed as a dream, this tale of a lunar voyage was devised to validate the radically seditious thesis of a heliocentric universe. Published posthumously in 1634 and only rarely reprinted over the next three centuries, his text was finally rescued from obscurity when translated into several European languages. Soon gaining a reputation among devotees of science fiction, today it is widely recognized as a pioneer in that genre. Research into Somnium’s checkered history has informed Barba’s eponymous project. Borrowing Kepler’s title in tribute, she has drawn upon both his tale and, equally importantly, his remarkable achievement in establishing a new ontology of vision. (excerpt from Lynne Cooke, “Suspended Stories: Rosa Barba’s strategic narrativity“, in: Rosa Barba –White is an Image, Ostfildern 2011)

Barba’s recordings were made in Rotterdam on a site planned as a future harbour, which will become operational in 2030. The landscape that Barba introduces in her recordings is itself surreal, strange and uninhabited, and captures the science-fiction tone of Kepler’s story. Different levels intertwine, as the time periods become endlessly and topographically uncertain. The boundaries between reality and fiction resolve into the poetic language of the film’s narrative, accompanied by the music of Jan St. Werner. The work reflects the notion that Kepler’s “Somnium sive Astronomia Lunaris”, which occurs as a dream narrative of fantastical detail, never loses sight of the Copernican view of astro-physical certainty. Kepler wrote his novel while at the court of Rudolf II in Prague (having replaced Tycho Brahe as imperial astronomer) and only a few months before Galileo’s first telescope observations of the moon. His tale describes in detail how the earth itself might look from the lunar surface, and speculates on the anatomy and way of life of the inhabitants of the moon and its climatic conditions.
 
Somnium, 2011

16mm film transferred to video, color, sound; 19:20 min



Images 1, 2, 3: Film still © Rosa Barba 
Image 4: Installation view at Secession, Vienna, 2017. Photo: Oliver Ottenschläger © Rosa Barba