Shirin Neshat: Turbulent
Gallery Faurschou Copenhagen
10 September 2009 – 07 November 2010
In the fall FAURSCHOU CPH will be showing “Turbulent” (1998), one of the most powerful works by the Iranian-American video- and film artist Shirin Neshat. This film marked her international breakthrough and awarded her with the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial in 1999. “Turbulent” is essentially about the freedom of speech and the liberty of expression, and it seems meaningful to show this piece in the context of the current “Green Revolution” in Iran after the election in June.
Ambiguous images of Islam
Since the beginning of the 1990’s, and with increasing international recognition, Shirin Neshat has in her artwork been exploring issues of Islam and Arabic culture. The impetus for her work is coming from the dramatic consequences of the clerical regime especially on the lives of women in her native country. Shirin Neshat lives and works in New York and as an Iranian in exile she is in a position to describe Iranian culture both from within and from outside. This dual gaze is characteristic of her works. She uses Persian language, history and culture in highly aesthetical and disturbing images, questioning the relationship between man and woman, individual and society, power and powerlessness.
Freedom and oppression
”Turbulent” is a two screened video, installed in a dual projection set in opposites sides, placing the viewer at the centre. The presentation of separate screens enhances the duality inherent in the work, and creates a tense dialogue of differences; here the relationship between man and woman, song and silence, freedom and oppression which is further emphasised by the black and white film.
On one screen we are introduced to a man on a stage in a full and brightly lit concert hall facing a male audience. On the opposite screen a woman dressed in a black chador stands alone, now without an audience, and in darkness. Enraptured by the situation, he sings a beautiful old Iranian love song in Farsi. When he has finished singing and receives his applause, the woman begins her performance. She is veiled, standing alone, and only visible from behind, as she begins vocalizing a series of deep sounds into the empty concert hall. She does not sing but performs ululations, screams and panting breaths. The woman's wordless song is very powerful and needs no translation to be understood by listeners of any background.
The film may be seen as a commentary on the difference between men and women in Iran, and on Muslim law that does not allow women to sing in public. Women’s situation changed dramatically after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. Where they had previously lived as Westerners, they were forced to wear chador and were restricted in public space. The theocratic regime still in power today is facing new challenges. With the “Green Revolution” it has become obvious that the population is able to spread their demands for freedom and democracy through cell phones, networks like Youtube and Facebook etc., thereby reaching news media on a global scale.
Shirin Neshat and her husband Shoja Azari, also the male singer in the film, follow the development in their home country actively. They are among the 6 million displaced Iranians who either cannot or dare not return to Iran.
There are several links on the web. Below are links with interviews with Shirin Neshat and her husband.
Women without Men - Feature film
Shirin Neshat is currently invited to the film festivals in Venice and in Toronto this September, where her feature film,”Women without Men”, will be screened for the first time. The film is a re-working of her video series of the same title shown last winter at Faurschou Beijing, where it was viewed by 40.000 visitors. This is her debut as a feature film director.
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