A conversation with the audio-visual media artist.
Captivated by the liaison between electronic music and video imagery, Sabrina Ratté’s work is rich in collaboration. Schooled in Film Production at Concordia University, the Montreal-based visual artist synthesizes film, animation, and video feedback to create a surreal experience that stimulates the viewer at a primal level, invoking ideas of utopia and dystopia. Ratté’s meditative oeuvre traverses many mediums, including video art, installations, GIFS, and live performances, and has been featured internationally in major metropolitan cities such as Montréal, Mexico City, and Barcelona.
Ratté’s video art is the visual component to “Le Révélateur,” an audio-visual collaboration with former Godspeed You! Black Emperor member Roger Tellier-Craig that fuses ethereal sounds and futuristic pulses with simulated digital images. While the visuals generally come first, with Le Révélateur the music takes the lead, inspiring Ratté to create an organic, multifaceted digital aesthetic, where abstract virtual landscapes and architectural environments are transformed and dismantled to highlight the ephemeral nature of perception.
An assertion of creative power, Ratté uses her art to draw parallels between supposed realities within the physical world and the illusions conjured with virtuality. Architectural buildings become points of observation, with surfaces and angular forms operating as points of departure. Solids melt into liquids, undulating images shimmer and pulsate as new worlds are brought to life.
Do you see the projection of light as something that creates a boundary between real and synthetic worlds, or as something that brings them together?
Video is a way for me to appropriate physical spaces and architectures into a realm where I can create a parallel reality. I do aim to reveal intangible elements that emerge from specific spaces, such as atmospheres and strong impressions that architecture inspires or imposes on everyday life. There is also something metaphysical about the idea of sculpting electricity into architecture, and the representation of environments through projected light. I am interested in exploring the idea of utopian and dystopian architectures, and questioning their influence in the physical world in dialogue with virtual reality.
Much of your work plays with visual representations of electricity. When did it first fascinate you?
When I started working with video, I was interested in exploring its intrinsic quality, in asking the question: ‘what makes video different than film, animation, or any other mediums?’ I started working with a video synthesizer, which allows me to modulate electronic signals into shapes, colors, and moving patterns. I also integrated video feedback techniques, which consists of light going back and forth from the television screen to the camera filming it. These analog techniques allow for infinite possibilities while offering a very hands-on approach, as opposed to the long rendering time required with software. They also bring unique textures and vibrant colors to the video image, impossible to imitate with digital techniques. The mix of both analog and digital technologies is key to my work.
Do your pieces ever feel truly finished?
I have a different relationship with each work I complete, therefore it is hard for me to compare them. Some are more difficult to achieve then others, but I see each video as a new step in my practice. In some ways, even when a work is done, I see it as a work in progress, like an addition of new elements to a wider process. A work is complete when I feel that it has gone in a new direction—when it reveals new potential. There is something intuitive about that, and also relative to every work.
How do you view climate change denial in a broader cultural or social context?
Denial is an attitude that I always had a hard time understanding. I am often revolted by it, but I also know that there are many reasons hiding behind this behavior. Denial in the social context seems to manifest a profound fear of change, a desire to avoid dealing with a problem that would cause a major crisis in the “status quo” of things. Obviously, to address climate change seriously requires us to take a solid stance, to oppose extremely powerful organizations, to make radical changes in our way of living; in brief, it requires a true revolution.
Written by Jasmine Ashoori