About the work

SHIRIN NESHAT

ABOUT THE WORK


   SHIRIN NESHAT
     Fervor Series (Crowd of Women, 
One Leaving)
, 2000
Silver gelatine print
103, 5 x 128 cm
©Shirin Neshat Foto: Larry Barns, 
Courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery
The photograph Fervor Series is a still from the video of the same name. The video deals with taboo sexuality: sensuality, forbidden attractions and repressed contact between the sexes.

Through serene and protracted sequences of shots and a slowly unfolding story, the video depicts the sexuality and desire associated with eye contact. The eye contact between men and women, strictly forbidden in Muslim Iran, is the foundation of the work.

THE SILENT ENCOUNTER
The film shows a casual encounter in a desert between a man and a woman in a chador. They exchange gazes but no words. They meet again later at a religious congregation at which men and women are separated by a black curtain, listening to a priest admonishing them of carnal sin.

The two main characters cannot see each other but instinctively sense each other's presence. Suddenly the woman rises to leave the congregation, and when she passes the spot where the man is hidden by the curtain, they both turn their faces towards each other. The desire is intense, silent and forbidden. It is this situation, seen from the women's side of the curtain, that ARKEN's film still shows.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SEXES
Fervor is the third installation in a film trilogy initiated with Turbulent in 1998 and followed by Rapture in 1999. The overall theme of the series is the chasm between man and woman in the fundamentalist Islamic culture.

The first two films juxtapose the free, civilised man and the veiled, anonymous woman. The man wanders the city space whereas the woman has been deprived of the right to speak in public and is connected to nature and baser instincts. She is associated with the home which she runs but does not control.

In Fervor, however, Neshat is not interested in opposites but rather in similarities. Here she demonstrates how the theocracy delimits both men and women's possibilities of sexual expression.

Shirin Neshat's art in general
Based on her experiences growing up in Iran under the Shah, her adult life in the USA, and subsequent experience of returning to a changed country after Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution in 1979, Neshat's art comments on differences and similarities between the fundamentalist Islamic world and Western culture.

She demonstrates how sex is the deciding factor in the individual's social status and latitude. Her works concern themselves with women's marginalised position, confined to the home, a few select occupations and an absence of public life.

THE CULTURALLY CONTROLLED INDIVIDUAL
Neshat is interested in the cultural boundaries of the people in the Muslim world. Often her art is political. However, she does not merely portray the Iranian theocracy's manner of controlling and curtailing its citizens.

By focusing on the relationship between man/woman, East/West, exile/home, individual/society and culture/nature she is also able to point to universal issues, expressing emotions transcending politics and religion.

CHALLENGING STEREOTYPES
Neshat's art challenges stereotypical conceptions of women in both the patriarchal Muslim societies and in the West. The Western world cannot deny even today regarding the East as the exotic Orient like in colonial times. Neshat takes a critical stance towards the Western image of the Muslim woman as an exotic and passively erotic object.

Even today the Muslim woman is associated with the veiled harem woman who reveals a smouldering desire beneath her garb. Additionally Neshat illustrates the paradox that women living under Muslim law on the one hand are considered inferior to men and on the other their equals when it comes to war.

With her pictures and videos of Muslim women Neshat wishes to broaden the understanding that she finds grossly simplified and stunting for the individual.

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