David Rosetzky’s films have a tendency to prompt an internal monologue. “Am I like that? Do I do that sometimes? I think this sounds like me. Am I guilty of that?” His video work is confrontational, but it’s also nice to know we’re all freaking out about the same things.
If you’re not familiar with Rosetzky’s work, for many years it adhered to a precise and highly stylised aesthetic. Meticulously executed, his films and installations were reminiscent of slick, high-gloss magazine shoots. Sometimes they more closely resembled TV ads, with dappled light and young, good-looking actors basking in bucolic or glamorous surroundings.
For two decades Rosetzky has used video, voice, sound and installation to explore the formation of self and how we relate to others. He looked at those concepts in relation to mass media and consumer culture – hence the advertising aesthetic – examining how they influence our identity and sense of self.
In person Rosetzky is softly spoken and self-effacing. He describes his art as an extension of portraiture.
“I’m interested in people and how they think about themselves in relation to others. I don’t elevate it to say its anthropological or anything like that,” he says. “They’re things that everyone thinks about.”
Rosetzky’s renowned video art has undergone noticeable change in recent years. The films are as polished and fastidious as they have ever been, but it’s as if the shellac has been peeled back; there’s a more pared-down appearance and warmth. Rosetzky has also increasingly used theatre and dance in his videos, as in his newest work Gaps, which premieres at ACMI on August 5.
“The advertising aesthetic is probably something that’s becoming less interesting to me,” he says. “I am interested in it, but not to the extent that I was earlier on, where I directly referenced and drew upon it.”
Rosetzky regularly incorporates voiceovers or performed dialogue in his work. These voices shatter the illusion of perfection or self-assurance depicted on screen, revealing subjects who are grappling with universal issues of self-doubt; of relating to other people; of how we should and do construct our identities. These spoken confessions and revelations stem from interviews Rosetzky conducts with his subjects early in his art-making process.
“What is said by not being said – by the gaps and the pauses – is interesting,” he says. “Often when someone is saying something, just by the way they’re saying it, they’re actually communicating something quite different.
“My work looks at those slippages between authenticity and artifice,” he says.
Rosetzky grew up in Melbourne and attended the progressive school Preshil in Kew. He studied printmaking and painting at art school, and only began to incorporate video into his work after he finished studying. He quickly gained a following with absorbing video portraits of friends, before graduating to larger-scale projects with multiple actors and collaborators.
One of Rosetzky’s best-known works is a roughly 10-minute video called Portrait of Cate Blanchett, which was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. The film, which depicts the famous Australian actress in the Sydney Theatre Company workshop, is an example of Rosetzky’s turn to a less glossy aesthetic and growing interest in theatre and choreographed dance. He says his focus is now on using a, “broader and more diverse language” to explore those recurring themes of identity, but in a more abstract way than before.
Gaps is an extension of an earlier work called How To Feel. A dance rehearsal is the setting for both films, and Rosetzky used choreographer Stephanie Lake for both works. This time he was interested in movement that expressed different speeds, textures and tones. Gaps hones in on ideas of sameness and difference, which Rosetzky has looked at in previous works but in a less focused, and he says, more oblique way.
“The editing for this one has been more intense than others because I went into the filming of this project in a slightly looser way than I have in the past,” Rosetzky says. “It’s a little bit more experimental, there’s a little bit more risk involved than previously.” He thinks these untested waters will, “bring up some interesting shifts” in the roughly 30-minute video.
“David is very hands-off,” Lake says. “We chat about what he’s interested in for the work, the essential idea. David allows material to unfold and find itself in the editing process.” And this is something Rosetzky talks about often.
“I like to find the work through the making of it rather than having everything too decided upon or composed before it’s made,” he says. “Often you don’t really see the work until quite a time after its finished, because you’re so immersed in it.”
Gaps is a free exhibition in Gallery 2 at ACMI from Tuesday August 5 2014.