Part two of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' three-part video-art
exhibition opened Saturday, April 6, featuring "Rapture," a major recent work by
Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat.
"Rapture" presents lush black-and-white projections on opposing walls in
an exploration of the strict division in some
Islamic countries between men and women.
A selection of early videos by artists such as
Marina Abramovi and Ulay, Juan Downey,
Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill, Daniel Reeves, and
Howardena Pindell treats related themes of
gender roles, cultural identity and spatial divides.
Neshat (b. 1957) left Iran in 1974 to study art in California. In 1979, the
Iranian Revolution left her as an exile in America. In 1990, she moved from
California to New York. That same year she visited Iran for the first time in 12
years. Since her visit to her homeland, her work has focused on the role of
women in Islamic cultures.
She was named one of the “Best of 2001” by Artforum magazine in
“Rapture” consists of two 12-1/2-minute videos played simultaneously.
“Placing the men and women on opposite walls crystallizes their segregation in
Islamic culture,” says John Ravenal, curator of Modern and Contemporary art
at the museum and organizer of the exhibition.
“Unlike the generally passive viewing conventions of theater, film and TV,
‘Rapture’ activates the viewing space, involving its audience physically and
psychologically,” he says.
“Outer & Inner Space: A Video Exhibition in Three Parts” represents a
seven-month focus on video art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Part one,
featuring a major work by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, was on view for two months
beginning Jan. 19.
Director Dr. Michael Brand says the
exhibition “offers the museum a chance to
bring a vitally important recent art form to the
public and a chance for our audience to reflect
on the tremendous artistic, cultural and
technological changes that have brought us to where we are today.”
The final part of “Outer & Inner Space,” spotlighting Jane & Louise
Wilson’s “Stasi City,” will debut June 22 and continue through Aug. 18.
Using four projections, “Stasi City” presents what Ravenal calls “a
dynamic and disorienting view” of the abandoned headquarters of the former
East German secret police. Accompanying “Stasi City” will be works by Peter
Campus, Dan Graham, Joan Jonas, Mary Lucier, Bruce Nauman, Steina, and Bill Viola, among others, that explore themes of vision, anxiety, surveillance
and power. A newly acquired video installation by Bill Viola, “Quintet of the
Unseen” (2001), will also premiere in the permanent galleries on June 22. “This
major work, featured at the 2001 Venice Biennale, continues Viola’s use of
sophisticated new technology to explore traditional art historical themes, in this
case the Classical and Renaissance theme of the passions,” Ravenal says.
by Shirin Neshat
(Production still (c)
1999 Shirin Neshat,
courtesy Barbara Gladstone)