ON FAITH

Extract from Mark Cauchi’s catalogue essay “Horizons of Transcendence”
Commissioned by the Koffler Gallery for Troubled Histories, Ecstatic Solitudes


“Rocamora examines the relationship between transcendence and antagonistic borders very directly in her most recent work, Faith (2015). Where Body of War makes concrete reference to several real world conflicts (World War II, Bosnia, Iraq, Israel), but in this plurality generalizes its significance, Faith situates itself squarely within the fraught relations among the Abrahamic monotheisms of Jerusalem. A three channel work, Faith presents on separate screens an Orthodox Jew, a Greek Orthodox Christian, and a Sunni Muslim, the frames of the screens serving, preliminarily, as borders between them.

Instead of this commitment to, or faith in, one’s own tradition, Faith, in its mise en sène 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 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 in Time and Gesture, 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.”


Mark Cauchi, 2015

ISABEL ROCAMORA