Video

Shirin Neshat Sets Fire to Stuff

by Jocelyn Silver on June 24, 2011

A screenshot of "Before My Eyes" (via nytimes.com) (click to watch)

Shirin Neshat’s new “Summer” film in her Seasons series, entitled “Before My Eyes” (click to watch) was posted on the New York Times website earlier this week. The intentions of the film are political, as is the nature of Neshat’s work. Neshat asks us to reflect on “[measuring] the rise and fall of our hopes in the Middle East and … the catastrophic earthquake in Japan.” The video shows a woman in a solitary landscape experiencing fire and disaster, and the reflection of the event in someone’s eye.

The film is beautifully shot and edited. The flames (which Neshat referred to as “flames of fear”) do evoke fear of natural disaster. The woman’s defiant movement away from the fire could reflect the world’s movement towards uncertain future, towards the hope that this season may bring something better. The world did experience disaster and upheaval all throughout the spring, which is perhaps what the flames are meant to represent. There is an air of defiance, almost of optimism, present through the woman’s movements. She does not run from the flames, but walks strongly, almost proudly. She seems to be walking towards a certain destination, towards something hopeful.

Perhaps I’m a bit of a Philistine, but the major flaw I found in the video is that before I read Neshat’s description of her work, I didn’t fully know what it was referencing. I got the mood of disaster, of fear, and of hope, but until I Neshat’s artist statement, I had no idea what the video was related to. It also moves at a glacial place. That is not a major problem, but I did have difficulty keeping my attention on the work. Perhaps I just have adult onset ADHD.

Despite its minor flaws, Shirin Neshat’s new work is worth watching. The eyeball is also oddly entrancing. Watching a pupil dilate is just kind of like watching Fast Times At Ridgemont High zoomed in. The video is shot and edited beautifully, and perfect for a pyro.

Here’s another video from Shirin Neshat. Made in 1998, this video is called Turbulent. It uses music to represent gender struggles.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/fluffysingler Fluffy Singler

    Turbulent is completely brilliant.  I have liked all of her work–the videos, films and the still photographic series–so far.   Thanks for this review and bringing attention to her new work.

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