Isabel Rocamora: Imaging Faith

A hypnotic, tranquil reflection on the importance of religion in today’s society

The central focus of this small, contemplative exhibition is the film triptych Faith, set in the dry and barren desert of the Holy Land. Three screens depict in turn an Orthodox Jew, a Greek Orthodox Christian and a Sunni Muslim performing the learned rituals of their morning prayers. Each man appears completely absorbed in intimate action, prayer and song as a humid wind sweeps around them; as their sonorous prayers overlap one another we begin to observe not just the differences but the striking similarities between their rituals.

The result is a hypnotic, tranquil reflection on the ongoing importance of religion in today’s society. In the following room, Isabel Rocamora displays a series of photographs taken in Jerusalem, providing a wider context for the film. These include documents of significant historical places such as the Old City of Bethlehem with the Church of Nativity in the background and the interior of Nebi Musa Mosque in the Judean Desert, where Muslims believe the Prophet Moses is buried. They are situated against unsettling images of segregation, such as a photograph of the Separation Wall between Israel and Palestine in mid construction, a subtle nod towards the devastating global consequences of the religious conflicts depicted in the film triptych.

Rocamora’s dimly lit reading room acts as a closing chapter for the show. Three sacred texts, the Jewish Tanakh, Christian Bible and Islamic Quran are displayed alongside excerpts and books by a range of contemporary thinkers, including Oscar Wilde’s agnostic musings and Jacques Derrida’s idealistic hopes for ‘a universal politics’. These far ranging texts provide a series of meditations on the historical role of religion and what its place is, or could be, in contemporary society, but they also act as a reminder of the intricate and unanswerable complexity of the subject.

Summerhall, Edinburgh, until Wed 13 Jul.

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