Isabel Rocamora is a film director and artist working with the moving image and still photography. Her practice originated in performance, with live works commissioned by institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Institute of Contemporary Arts London, and the Arts Council of England.
Awarded internationally, her moving image works have been commissioned by and curated worldwide in galleries and museums, festivals and for broadcast, and are held in several international collections.
Isabel holds a PhD in film-philosophy from the University of Edinburgh. Her scholarly writing and education work are located at the intersections of contemporary art, cinema and philosophy.
Conceived as meditations on contemporary ethics, Rocamora’s work destabilises ideas of social unchangeability by interrogating the complex bond people hold to history in legacies of trauma. Recent films consider the relationship between exile and selfhood, the moral consequences of military violence, and issues of faith and difference at the heart of contemporary conflict.
Her intricately choreographed mise-en-scènes often focus on the performative nature of human gesture and its relationship to individual and cultural identity. Highlighting the significance of place, the expansive landscapes in her images reveal their presence as history-bearing sites. In this way, the bunker-strewn beaches of the Normandy Landings (Body of War) and the limitless valleys of the Judean desert (Faith) transcend the classical landscape to become, respectively, loci of trauma or spiritual retreat. Aiming to counter performance with testimony, these works solicit the viewer as witness rather than spectator – a relation that she considers to be facilitated by multi-channel formats and site-sensitive installation. She has in recent years developed a practice in medium format analog and digital still photography often in dialogue with/ curated alongside her films.
Isabel's current practice is driven by concerns of environmental phenomena. She is currently working on two projects. The first is a medium-length film that, titled The Deep, turns to the rich and coveted geologies of Scotland to poetically examine the impact of fracking technologies on local communities, the earth and its atmospherics (funded by Creative Scotland, in partnership with Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, and planned for production in 2024). Titled Humilitas, the second project is a still photography and expanded media work that considers our geological belonging with the earth (commissioned by the Art and Nature Award, funded by Centre d'Art La Panera and Lleida Municipality, in residence at Centre for Art and Nature, Catalan Pyrenees).
Rocamora's films have been extensively exhibited, including: Centre for Contemporary Art Palazzo Strozzi, Florence; National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen; Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel; Museum of Modern Art, Bologna; Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and Austrian Cultural Forum NYC. She has been selected for international surveys of videoart at Artium Museum of Modern Art, Vitoria; The Pacific Centre, LA; Arts Santa Monica, Barcelona; MAC Museum, Galicia and The Venice Biennale (colaterali). Recently, alongside her solo exhibitions Troubled Histories, Ecstatic Solitudes at The Koffler Gallery (Toronto), Ecstatic Solitudes at The Shaw Gallery, Weber State University Utah, and Imaging Faith at Summerhall Galleries Edinburgh, her work has shown at the Musée de la Civilisation, Quebec; MUNTREF Museum, Buenos Aires; Museo Patio Herreriano de Valladolid; and (prior to the war on Ukraine) The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, among other venues.
Isabel holds a PhD in film-philosophy from the University of Edinburgh, where she has also taught film studies (2015-2019). Previously, she held visiting lectureships in cinema and artist moving image practice at Edinburgh Napier University, Barcelona International Film School and Instituto Europeo Di Design. Isabel was Visiting Scholar at Pompeu Fabra University in 2020-2022. She has been widely invited to give artist talks (Stills Gallery Edinburgh; Architects’ Association London; Royal Art Circle Barcelona; Hamidrasha School of Art Israel; A. M Qattan Foundation, Ramallah Palestinian Territories); and has delivered papers at academic conferences such as Film Philosophy (universities of Oxford, Glasgow, Lisbon) and the British Society for Phenomenology (National University of Ireland), and by invitation (universities of Brown, Dundee, Frankfurt). Authored publications on her practice include an artist monograph Horizon of Exile (Sala Parpalló, 2009); an essay on Residual (Re-imagining the City of Bristol, Watershed, 2006); and, most recently, a chapter on the philosophies, aesthetics and performance principles that ground the ethical preoccupations of her film-making, in Cinematic Intermediality: Theory and Practice (eds. Marion Schmid and Kim Knowles, Edinburgh University Press, Feb. 2021).
Isabel lives and works between Edinburgh and Barcelona. She is represented by Galeria SENDA.