The Blessing

Claire Hooper

"You realise, I repeat, and indeed see that you are being carried away you know not where. For although this is delightful, the weakness of our nature makes us afraid at first, and we need a much more determined and courageous spirit than for the previous stages of prayer. We have to go willingly wherever we are carried, for in fact, we are being borne off whether we like it or not. In this emergency very often I should like to resist, and I exert all my strength to do so, especially at such times as I am in a public place, and very often when I am in private also because I am afraid of delusions. Sometimes with a great struggle I have been able to do something against it. But it has been like fighting a great giant, and has left me utterly exhausted. At other times resistance has been impossible; my soul has been carried away, and usually my head as well, without being able to prevent it; and sometimes it has affected my whole body, which has been lifted from the ground."

Saint Teresa of Avila, Libro de la Vida - from 'Rapture'.

Claire Hooper's 'The Blessing' is a twelve-channel, site specific video-installation produced in response to the architecture and multi-screen context of the gallery at Sketch, in Central London. In the film, Hooper draws on historical precedents, taking reference points from religious sources such as Renaissance man Fra Angelico's visions of saints and Saint Teresa's description of rapture. Hooper's quasi-religious, utopian/dystopian vision of ecstasy is framed and narrated through an account of a mind-altering acid trip. The soundtrack is by musician and artist Kenichi Iwasa.

'The Mocking of Christ' by Fra Angelico, a painting which is situated neither in heaven nor on earth but in a place created out of meditation itself, informs an idea of a 'plane of truth' or an imaginary zone from which other places or experiences may be accessed through thought - a concept that is not only culturally embedded but also has a long cinematic history, exchanged through parallel genres of sci-fi and gothic, subversive and underground.

Hooper's 'Blessing' revisits the B-Movie film aesthetic redolent of the 1970s fascination with tawdry realisations of 'utopia-as-heaven'. With its sudden, dystopian malice reminiscent of the narrative rupture and hallucinated pace of Dario Argento's 'Susperia' kaleidoscopic sections shot by Hooper, violent in physical effect [large scale 360 degree projections] induce a vertigo in the protagonist and in the viewer simultaneously, all the more since they are cheaply produced, video-ed directly from a computer screen, through a home made kaleidoscope. These 'domestic' special effects recall those utilised in the first wave of slasher movies made subversively with what, at hand, disturbed the utopian dream of 'safe' suburbia.

Claire Hooper: The Blessing was held 12 May to 23 June 2007, at Sketch, Conduit Street London