Women In Black

Video artist Shirin Neshat unveils Islam's conflicted heart

Neshat's latest film, 2001's "Passage," initially seems like a departure from earlier psychological allegories like "Rapture." Shot in color, with Philip Glass standing in for her usual musical collaborator (New York-based singer/composer Sussan Deyhim), the film opens with the camera gliding low over a vast plain of cracked rock gilded pale pink by the desert sunrise. While a funeral procession approaches bearing a shrouded bier, a huddled group of veiled women claw a grave out of the dust. The tableau, inspired by images of violence and mourning in Palestine, is both thrilling and apocalyptic.

One mic: A man recites the words of an Islamic mystic in Shirin Neshat's "Turbulent"
Courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery
One mic: A man recites the words of an Islamic mystic in Shirin Neshat's "Turbulent"

Then, with one awesome stroke across the scarred land, Neshat turns the film into something far greater than political art; "Passage" becomes a ritual of purification. It provokes the same shiver as "Turbulent." Here at the edge of the grave, she suggests, is where the new world will begin.

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