Introducing Rachel Rossin

A pioneer in Virtual Reality art

For some, Virtual Reality (VR) may be just a fun gadget to experience gaming even more intensely. However, in times of VR being more and more detailed, accessible and accepted, we have moved forward to include VR in many other fields. For instance, in an attempt to re-create scenes from Franz Kafka’s famous novella “The Metamorphosis”, the Goethe Institut’s “VRwandlung” theme room allows users to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist as he suddenly wakes up a beetle one day.

Working at the vanguard of the medium, New York-based VR artist Rachel Rossin is venturing into VR as a means for expressing art. As a pioneer in her field, she mixes elements from various fields such as pop culture, video games and art history to create high-tech VR simulations which overcome the boundaries of traditional art.

Photo Credit © Rachel Rossin (@rachelrossin) • Instagram

Drawing on her roots as a programmer, “n=7 / The Wake in Heat of Collapse” (2015) invites the viewer to get sucked into a surreal game-like imagery, playing on collages made up of paintings, landscapes or brand logos. In her installation “Lossy” of the same year, she merges paintings with VR for the first time: Working from “drafts” in 2D to transfer her paintings into VR, she gives them 3D elements that defy art as we have known it so far. In 2016/17, “My Little Green Leaf” further expands on the idea of merging traditional work with VR: In an interactive experience, the user is able to experience 3D paintings as sculptures against idealized backgrounds. The sculptures in “Peak Performance” (2017) presents art that re-defines the human body as a “digital phantom across different media”: After creating art pieces in VR environments, she torched printed out 3D plexiglass pieces and sculpted them around her own body.

Photo Credit © Rachel Rossin (@rachelrossin) • Instagram

Her groundbreaking work has earned her world-wide recognition as a leading artist in the field and makes her a hot commodity in international art. For instance, as part of a major exhibition of international contemporary art on the theme of digital revolution, her work was featured in ARS17 (Finland, 2017/18) and her work was exhibited in the Borusan Contemporary Museum of Art in Istanbul as well as The Zabludowicz Collection of London (2018), among others.

With her simulations being praised as a way to “immerse yourself in a Dante-esque virtual reality”, Rachel Rossin has been successful in overcoming many stigmas of art, but also of VR. While art is usually considered old, traditional and restricted to the creator’s mind, VR is viewed as a mere game gadget that isolates people from the real world. With her vision, VR as well as art can take on new forms, spanning different media and awareness layers.

In her own words, she claims that reality does not strictly separate the “virtual” from the “real”, but it is rather a fluid gradient of the two. For her, experiencing our modern world is a combination of physical and virtual elements — an idea which is reflected in her work.

Similarly, at Second Earth, we are trying to create a “virtual” that exceeds and expands the “real”. In our modern society, the virtual and the real can no longer be explicitly separated; we are seamlessly moving between them. Be it gaming, working, playing or art — the time has come to recognize and utilize the power of technology to expand and improve our daily life.

It will take many steps and pioneers who dare them. But just like Rachel Rossin who re-defines art with VR, we will move on in our journey towards our vision.