Big Window

On Kara Rooney's


Note: Artwork transcript is available in the downloadable PDF. 

Currents (2020) is a collaborative video work by Kara Rooney and musician Fausto Palma that incorporates visual, sonic, and spoken word elements in response to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. Made about—and from within—the enduring global pandemic, Currents grapples with the complex physical, emotional, and psychological realities of a collective experience, revealing how, during times of dilemma, the personal is inextricably part of the universal. This is most acute when Rooney comments “Made a cup of coffee, stared out the window, and got to work listening to the news” and continues, “The only thing that makes me feel human.”

Using a split-screen and abstracted imagery of various clear liquids and inks, Currents incorporates visual and auditory components that tend towards the figurative, even while the spoken elements evolve into the intelligible. Take for instance the syncopated breathing that appears in the first half of the work: evocative of feelings both exasperated and meditative, the staccato inhalations can be sinister and calming in equal measure, a fitting metaphor for the emotional oscillations one goes through while attempting to enact routine in the face of alarming change. The sources for Rooney’s words further this notion. With the script comprising the artist’s own writing woven together with excerpts from philosophical texts by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Luc Nancy, and Plato, one’s intimate thoughts are given the same billing as historical theorem, eliminating distinction between the particular and the general.

The second portion of Currents crescendos in a climactic ending in which indications of a numeric binary fall apart. The echoing chant of “one to one to one” transitions into a relational anomaly in which “one and one” is simultaneously “one” and “two” as the speaker’s voice compounds upon itself. Sidestepping outdated notions of resolution, Rooney’s work instead offers solace through its relatability: poetic words maneuver in and out of musical accompaniment and composed images to create an encompassing sensation that is familiar, even while pointing to the unknowable.