INSTEAD OF THIS COMMITMENT TO, OR FAITH IN, ONE’S OWN TRADITION, FAITH, IN ITS MISE EN SCÈNE AND CINEMATOGRAPHY, DELIBERATELY TROUBLES THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE IDENTITIES. THE COMPOSITIONS OF THE FRAMES, THE COLOUR PALETTES, AND EVEN THE ACTUAL GESTURES ARE UNCANNILY SIMILAR. RUNNING THROUGH EACH FRAME, AND THEREFORE ACROSS THEIR BORDERS, IS A HORIZON LINE, WHICH HAS THE EFFECT OF JOINING THESE MEN, AS WELL AS THE VIEWER, IN THE SAME HORIZONTAL, WORLDLY SPACE.
As limits, horizons divide. So, even if these acts of faith transpire within the world’s horizons, they inevitably enact and invoke something that transcends them. The men and their actions are represented by Rocamora with utmost respect and sympathy, the astonishing 21-minute-long takes with which their prayers are captured parallel, in the camera’s stillness and “floating” feel, the transcendental dimension of their acts. This parallel is reinforced by the fact that, as one watches Faith, the backgrounds, with their hazy skies and monochromatic landscapes, often seem to recede and efface themselves. The austere landscapes in the backgrounds of these frames thus come to function, as they did for many ancestors in the Abrahamic religions, as a retreat from the world, a removing of traits. Like the gaps within the self in Portrait, like exile, like the face, faith stands out of its horizon, breaks from places of attachment, de-territorializing these men, exiling them. The moment of faith, then, when these men are not simply identified with their segregated worlds, opens the possibility of facing and addressing each other. In the powerful ending of the film, all three men emerge from their absorption in their prayers, peaceful and disarmed, to look directly – horizontally – at the viewer. Given that, in this moment, we are all on the same plane, it follows that we could all just as well be looking at each other, face to face. In this way, Rocamora suggests that faith may not only cross the horizon line between the earth and the beyond, but the borders that divide our horizontal planes.
1 Isabel Rocamora has produced a number of film works beyond those included in this show, as well as other non-film work. For more information, see her website: www.isabelrocamora.org
2 Rocamora’s own statement about the film references Russian photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944): www.isabelrocamora.org/home/FilmTv/Portrait
3 It is important to note that many, more recent feminists have taken a different view of religious women. Until recent times, the sisterhood offered Christian woman one of the few possibilities in society to lead an intellectual, autonomous, non-familial, non-hetero-normative life. See Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988). For a similar situation in Islam, see Saba Mahmood’s discussion of the contemporary women’s Mosque movement in Egypt, The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Subject of Feminism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
4 See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990).
5 See, for example, Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Phillippe Nemo, trans. Richard E. Cohen (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1985), ch. 7.
Isabel Rocamora (b. 1968) is a British-Spanish artist filmmaker. Her practice originated in performance, with live works commissioned by institutions such as the Arts Council of England and the Victoria and Albert Museum (1993 – 2003). Awarded internationally, her films have been exhibited at CCC Strozzina, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; the National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen; the Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel; the Austrian Cultural Forum, New York; and the Bologna Museum of Modern Art, among other venues. Current shows include the Musée de la civilisation, Québec; MUNTREF Museum, Buenos Aires and this solo show at the Koffler Gallery. Rocamora’s work is in several international collections. She lives and works between Edinburgh and Barcelona, and teaches film practice at Edinburgh Napier University. She is represented by Galeria SENDA. www.isabelrocamora.org
Mark Cauchi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities at York University. His interdisciplinary work combines European philosophy with the arts, religious studies, and social and political thought, and addresses themes such as agency, otherness, transcendence, and the relationship between religion and secularism. He has lectured widely in academic and public contexts, published articles in academic journals and books, and is the co-editor of the forthcoming book, Accursed Films: Postsecular Cinema between The Tree of Life and Melancholia (SUNY Press).
Design: Tony Hewer | Editing: Shannon Anderson
Digital publication to the exhibition Isabel Rocamora: Troubled Histories, Ecstatic Solitudes
Presented by the Koffler Gallery | September 17 to November 29, 2015 | Curator: Mona Filip | Curatorial Advisor: Magda González-Mora
© Koffler Centre of the Arts, 2015, in collaboration with the individual contributors. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-928175-07-0.