The Veil of Veronica (offset Halo)

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video & sound
duration: infinite loop

Brittle Crazie Glasse, Islington Mill, Salford, 2012
Stations of the Cross, St Stephen Walbrook, London, 2017
Stations 2020, Arts Chaplaincy Projects, 2020

from the series Stations of the Cross

Lucy Newman Cleeve, ‘Brittle Crazie Glasse’, catalogue essay
Laura Moffatt, ‘Stations of the Cross and Resurrection’, Art & Christianity, No 90, Summer 2017
Muriel Zagha, ‘From Psycho to Transcendence’, Elephant, 2017
Stations of the Cross | Stations of the Resurrection, Stations 2017, catalogue, ISBN 978-1-5272-0874-2s 

© acknowledgements:
This Gun For Hire (1942) 
Halo (Texas) 

Commentary by Lucy Newman Cleeve for Stations 2020

The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

This work appropriates a short extract from This Gun for Hire (1942) directed by Frank Tuttle and starring Veronica Lake. Dean has slowed down, overlaid and offset two identical layers of the same scene that portrays Veronica Lake’s character performing a magic trick with a large fan made of feathers. The soundtrack to the work is provided by the 1997 single ‘Halo’ by the band Texas. Dean has EQd the sound to remove the vocals (although their echo remains), the guitars and the drums, thereby bringing the harmonic undertones of the orchestration to the surface. The resulting work has a mesmeric quality that is heavy with allusion. At times, the feathered fan produces a veil that obscures the figure of Veronica Lake, but which also connotes angelic wings. The pseudonymous title of the work alludes to the 1st century Saint Veronica who, according to legend, offered Jesus her veil to wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted her offering and, after using the veil, handed it back to Veronica with the image of his face miraculously impressed upon it. In some medieval traditions, effigies of the face of Christ are referred to as ‘Veronicas’. 

These religious allusions are extended by the title and lyrics (albeit removed) of the audio track ‘Halo’, which also refer to the destructive lure of super-stardom and seem to echo the life of Veronica Lake, who was burnt by her own success and struggled with mental illness and alcoholism after the decline of her acting career. She veils or removes herself from the frame, as if to leave or transcend the external world, perhaps another oblique prefiguring of Jesus’ death or a comment on its efficacy. The faith of Saint Veronica is juxtaposed with the uncertainty and demise of the worldly Veronica, maybe a tacit acknowledgment of our human longing for proof of something higher than our own being in which to believe. And the image of the face of Christ left imprinted on the veil of Veronica questions the proofs upon which we base our knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Within these strange times, themes of immanence and transcendence, faith and doubt are amplified.