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Toronto
Terence Dick
Isabel Rocamora at Koffler Gallery
September 29, 2015

Isabel Rocamora’s exhibition at the Koffler Gallery would be a good instructional tool for an art class looking to consider the degrees of difference between video and video installation as well as the reception of multi-channel work. It begins with a single-screen piece from 2005 that plays on a lonely monitor under an umbrella speaker. This piece is the simplest of the four on view as it consists of only two superimposed takes of a woman moving before a stationary camera. The motifs that will continue through the later work – gestures made into dance, clothes as uniform, the subject as a product of an institution – all appear here in the unresolved figure.



Isabel Rocamora, Body of War, 2010, film installation

Next up is a single screen projection titled Body of War that could function as a stand-alone film and play in a theatre. It depicts soldiers acting out hand-to-hand combat while voiceovers explain their military training and experience in conflict. The most striking imagery is the slowed down fighting (the actors move in slow motion; the film moves at regular speed); it fluctuates between dance, savagery, lovemaking, and sport as the camera circles the pair. Another artist might have left this sequence on its own and shown it in silence on an endless loop, but Rocamora frames it within a specific historical and political discourse.

Across the room is a two-channel projection titled Horizon of Exile that combines scenes of two dancers in the desert along with a narrative of forced travel. It delves into both landscape photography and documentary with its voiceover testimonies and verité footage. The double screen only adds angles and wider perspectives that could have otherwise been accommodated by editing, so it works here but still feels more like a straightforward film.

It’s not until the final and most recent work, a three-screen projection titled Faith, that the artist arrives at something that could only appear in a gallery. It is one of those works of art that seem so obvious that you can’t believe someone hasn’t already done it, but Rocamora manages to own the concept with her trio of stationary shots of various desert locales, each with a single man of God reciting prayers – one Jewish, one Christian, one Muslim. The lingering gaze on their clothes, their gestures, their songlike prayers, and their intense concentration sets up a chorus of comparisons and differences that helps counterbalance the divisive imagery of the Middle East that is too commonplace and leads to further reflection on our sense of self in the world.


Koffler Gallery: http://kofflerarts.org/koffler-gallery/exhibitions/upcoming/
Isabel Rocamora continues until November 29.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

 

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