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MAM shows some amazing visuals from inside Islam

I'm not so taken on the idea of a mystic voice if it masks a world that oppresses. That would be equivalent to self-induced social Alzheimer's. However, mysticism can be seen as subversive as well, because it transcends the entrenched community of followers and can be a means for individual expression. No doubt Neshat's films point to the power of women to reveal their humanity in spite of insurmountable social obstacles.

The show has a catalog with essays from Paulette Gagnon, filmmaker Atom Egoyan, and Shoja Azari, whose essay, entitled An Inside Look into Shirin Neshat, I find problematical. Azari's language is deeply embedded in post-Structuralism -- a Western discourse: From her reading of Neshat's Pulse as showing that "emancipation is possible only as an act of self-sacrifice," to her debunking of "exile" as a political choice of protest, these arguments overlook Neshat's universal appeal. Neshat's work is universal because it is firmly embedded in her culture. Her films are politically nuanced in resisting old stereotypes of Muslim women, and they may even concede that there are possibilities for reform within Iranian fundamentalism (as the artist's overtures to work in Iran show). But given the present circumstances within the history of Islam, I take her art to convey a more important message of emancipation for Muslim women. Isn't it symptomatic that with more than 30 one-person exhibits all over the world, Shirin Neshat, one of the best Iranian artists today, has never been allowed a show in Iran?

Women in Islam, from Shirin Neshat's Rapture Series
LARRY BARNS
Women in Islam, from Shirin Neshat's Rapture Series

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