Ordinary time, within a Buddhist tradition, is the place in which nirvana is experienced. Here there is no self—no individual experience left to experience a sacred time—there is no apex, no climax, no plot, just time itself. Ordinary Time, as defined by the Catholic liturgical year, accounts for all the days between Christian holidays and their corresponding seasons (Christmas, Easter, Advent, and Lent) marking the major events in Christ’s life, death, and rebirth.
For her second show with the gallery, Em Rooney presents the Stations of the Cross as a series of sixteen photographs, framed in walnut and obscured by pewter numberforms. The Stations, here reimagined and out of order, turn the classic story of betrayal, pain, violence, sacrifice, and sorrow into a non-linear narrative, a visual poem: molten forms lean on and cling to the scaffold of this oft-depicted tale. The works in the show, using photographs as their center, ask what would happen if we reimagined the end of Christ’s first life (or of anybody’s life) through its adjacent moments—those seen or imagined in the crowds or community around a central figure—through gestures of love, through contact with things that support and guide us.
Iconic and art-historical moments from the Stations are referenced, invented, made prosaic—obscured and blurred by movement—within the circumstances of Rooney’s vernacular photography. Simon Shares the Burden (7) shows one ambiguous figure from behind, carrying another. Veronica Shares Her Veil (8) is repeated. In one image, two figures are wedged together on a sofa, the adult leans into the child, the child wraps her legs around the adult. In the second Veronica Shares Her Veil (8), a spill is toweled dry by a pair of socked feet. In Three Marys Meet Jesus (6), a group of marching women carry a banner reading, “Mothers working collectively for change. We call for accountability and transparency, stricter gun laws…” Christ’s Death (13), frequently depicted in paintings as a gash in Christ’s torso (picture Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas), is seen here instead as a solar eclipse.
Em Rooney (b. 1983, U.S.) lives and works in New York City. Recent exhibitions include Being: New Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; How Well Do You Behave? IN THE FLAT FIELD., curated by Jo-ey Tang, Beeler Gallery, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus Ohio (with Chris Domenick); redirecting, Simone Subal, New York, NY; Rubbings, Skibum MacArthur, Los Angeles, CA; The Word for Forest, Bodega, New York, NY; After the Sun, The Vanity Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (with Chris Domenick); Infinite Iotic, Beeler Gallery, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH; and Em Rooney and Dana Hoey, Raising Cattle, Montreal, Canada. Her work has been reviewed in Frieze, Artforum, Aperture Magazine, i-D, and ARTnews. She has written for Art Papers and Performa Magazine.
Special thanks to Interstate Projects Studio Program for their support during the making of this exhibition.