The Hidden Conference is a three-part series of Rosa Barba’s filmic investigations in museum storages. All three films evoke the discussions one can imagine artworks in the museum storage spaces might have with one another. The Hidden Conference confirms Barba’s continuing investigation of cultural storage areas and archives: the stored art works become protagonists in a filmic narrative that unfolds before a handheld camera; their invisible nexuses and the condition of silent coexistence are enlivened besides scientific or chronological claims by the restless camerawork and the montage of textual fragments, filmic pictures and sound elements. The soundscape, as it is always the case in Barba’s films and installations, is an equal partner in supporting the fictionalization process.
The series, started with The Hidden Conference: About the Discontinuous History of Things We See and Don’t See (2010), shot shortly after Barba launched her project at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, explores this debate further. Set in an unidentified location (the storage area of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin) and at “an unspecified point in time (in the future or in the past),” it brings to light a situation that although existing for years, the written prologue informs us, has now taken on a certain “degree of urgency”. Nonetheless, the reason for the meeting is no longer known. As the camera choreographs a miscellaneous group of art objects shrouded in noirish lighting, fragmentary narratives emerge but never cohere. Once again the narrative serves as “a mediator not as a solution”. Speech is subsumed into corporeal performance, for the minimal soundtrack composed together with Jan St. Werner animates the works – by Ernst Barlach, Renée Sintenis, Gerhard Marcks, and others now sunk into anonymity – creating a sense of play through gesture, stance, posture, and regard.
The Hidden Conference: A Fractured Play (2011) is shot in the archives of the Capitoline Museums in Rome. The works are stored and situated in a high-rise building – overlooking Rome.
The third part The Hidden Conference: About the Shelf and Mantel (2015) is shot in Tate’s archives. “(…) Far from challenging the paradigm of the archive as a failed futuristic vision, this clandestine conference confirms its rhetoric. Pathos surrounds the museum’s erstwhile ambitions to representational totality, leaving moot the possibility of redemptive salvaging of these misplaced shards of a fractured history. (…)” (excerpt from Lynne Cooke, Suspended Stories: Rosa Barba’s strategic narrativity, in: “Rosa Barba – White is an Image“, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2011)
The Hidden Conference: A Fractured Play, 2011 35-mm film, color, optical sound, 5 min, (sound: Jan St. Werner, camera: Benito Strangio, Rosa Barba, produced by: XXX) Images 1, 2, 3: Film still © Rosa Barba Image 4: Installation view at Jeu de Paume, 2012 © Rosa Barba