Shirin Neshat: The Fury, Lilly Wei, Studio International [9/2/2023]
Neshat’s haunting new video installation is a fictionalised account of the effect of imprisonment and torture on a young Iranian woman and is shown here alongside a series of black-and-white nude portraits of female trauma victims
Gladstone Gallery, New York
26 January – 4 March 2023
The Fury, a new two-channel video by the eminent Iranian-born film-maker and photographer Shirin Neshat, oppose each other from across two walls of the Gladstone gallery, a confrontation that reiterates the countless confrontations that occur in the video (and reality). The continuity here is deliberately disjunctive, the footage capturing the scene from different points of view, different moments in time, and purportedly different places in Brooklyn and Iran (although it is all filmed in Brooklyn), jumping from street scenes to the interior of an apartment to a prison or perhaps an interrogation centre. The projection might capture the scene frontally (the female protagonist is walking towards us in one screen, but in the other screen she is seen from an angle or walking away from us), then suddenly shifts, transporting us elsewhere, playing with dimensions of space, time and memory. As in reality, it is impossible to see or take it all in, the readings partial, to be pieced together like multidimensional fragments of a (streaming) jigsaw puzzle.
The Fury was made in 2022 before the protests that erupted in September of that year. They followed the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish Iranian woman, while in police custody, arrested because her hair was not properly covered. The protests are ongoing and, according to the New York Times, they are the most widespread and vehement since 2009, while other sources have compared them to those of 1979 and the Iranian revolution.
Neshat’s video was also completed before the launch of the Women, Life, Freedom (Zan, Zendegi, Azadi) movement. The words were taken from a Kurdish political chant popularised earlier and became the anthem of the protests and were also purposely deployed by the artist in this project.
Neshat pointed out – in response to criticism blasting her right to represent the women of Iran since she has lived much of her life in the US (she emigrated in 1974) – that she never intended to be a spokesperson for Iranian women. Instead, she was addressing the extreme inequities and violations suffered by women under aspects of Islamic culture and law that included rape and other forms of sexual assault, murder and lasting psychological trauma with little, if any, recourse. Neshat emphasised that it is her point of view that she is presenting and that the work itself is “fictionalised”, “stylised”, even as it addresses real issues, one reason that she films such projects in black and white, a decision that makes her videos even more cinematically and dramatically powerful.
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