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Subconscious Society


Subconscious Society is about the end of the industrial era and the transition to the digital age, in which computer code and the clone or copy are in the process of replacing material objects and analogue technology. In the film, this paradigm shift is represented in the form of a social community, whose protagonists make a final attempt at assigning and archiving objects from the past. It is set in a transitional realm where the past exists only as a reference to itself and the details of the present are not fully decipherable yet.

Further Info

The project takes inspiration from the urban environment of Manchester and the landscapes of Kent. Manchester, formerly an engine of the industrial revolution and once one of the wealthiest cities in the world, is now the site of post-industrial service economies. The North Kent Coast is replete with desolate seaside resorts, run-down theme parks, and derelict military fortifications by the sea.

The Manchester scenes represent the “inside.” The protagonists in the film are played by a group of local residents, some of which have memories of the main location, the former Methodist mission Albert Hall. The actors are filmed in tableaux vivants style images on 35mm. They reflect on various objects from the past, relics form the age of mechanical reproduction and analogue technology, which in the digital present seem increasingly mysterious. Other scenes show the demolition of the old BBC regional headquarters, with its obsolete machinery and outdated recording equipment.

The Kent sequences, by contrast, represent the “outside”, the world around the protagonists in Albert Hall. The film shows repeating architectural structures and topographies populated by abandoned ships, collapsing piers and rotting sea forts rising from the water on stilts like an alien life form. The opening images of the film focus on Margate’s Dreamland, one of the first amusement parks that opened its doors in the early 19th century. The park functions like a passage between the past and the present, a threshold for “old beliefs”, in which objects and materials had specific values.

Subconscious Society considers the possibility of archiving something whose value cannot be recognised or measured anymore, yet ultimately it is not about nostalgia, but rather the question of how we can understand the present. The theme of obsolescence is carried on in a very material sense; by accident (both happy and tragic) it was filmed with the last available shipment of Fuji 35mm stock.

Additional footage has also been shot during Rosa Barba’s residency in Marfa, Texas. Subconscious Society is Rosa Barba’s most comprehensive film project to date.


  • Booking Details

    For further details, enquiries or to request a screener please contact the HOME Artist Film team at artistfilm@homemcr.org

  • About the filmmaking team


    Rosa Barba (b. 1972, Sicily, Italy) lives and works in Berlin. Barba studied at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Her solo exhibitions include Kunstverein Braunschweig, Germany (2011), Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’île de Vassivière, France (2010), Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv (2010), and Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Sweden (2008). Her work was exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 2009, other group exhibitions include the New Museum, New York (2010), Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2009-10), Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2009), Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (2009), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2008). The web project Vertiginous Mapping (2008) was commissioned by the Dia Art Foundation, New York. Barba’s work is represented in numerous international collections such Collezione FRAC Piemonte, Vercelli, Italy; Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid and Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Germany.

    Producer: Sarah Perks

    Assistant Producers: Lauren Wright (UK), Henriette Huldisch (GER)

    Composer: Jan St Werner

    Director of Photography: Angus Hudson, Rosa Barba

  • Venues

    Premiered at the Berlin Biennale 2014

    UK Premiere as part of the HOMEwarming celebrations, Manchester, May 2015

    MK Gallery, Milton Keynes on 1 Oct 2015

    London Premiere, Whitechapel Gallery, London on 3 Oct 2015

    North American Premiere, Museum of the Moving Image, New York (as part of the Imagine Science Film Festival) on 18 Oct 2015