I first saw this video over winter break at the SFMOMA, and was pretty shocked that it has stuck with me for this long. Unfortunately I didn’t write down the artist or title of the piece, but then the artist Shirin Neshat was featured on the MoMA Instagram this week. Sharon Neshat is an artist that primarily works in video and photography. She is Iranian born and moved to the US when she was a freshman in college in 1975. She studied painting at UC Berkley, and returned home to Iran in 1990 to visit for the first time. It had been 11 years since Neshat had been to Iran and she was shocked at how different the culture was from the last time she was there.
“The country had transformed drastically from the monarchy to the Islamic Republic of Iran which, since the revolution, was so expansive, in the way that it had changed just about everything about the country. Ideologically, musically — the country became so religious — but also in the physical form, in the way people looked, the relationship to body language, in terms of how you had to repress absolutely any sort of sexual or physical interaction with a man — it was a phenomenon just sociologically speaking.” -Shirin Neshat
After this visit Neshat focused her artwork on understanding the Islamic revolution in Iran and specifically the role that women play in this “new” Iran. These women found themselves at the intersection between love of God but also violence and crime.
In the piece Passage a group of men carry a body covered in white cloth across a beach. While a group of women sit in a circle and dig a grave with their hands, and a child create a ring of rocks and lights them on fire. The combination of these scenes along with the score the video is set to is incredibly haunting. The video is in response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the news footage of funeral processions carrying bodies.
Here is a low quality video of the piece, to give a sense of the video. If you ever have the opportunity to see the video at a museum it is seriously worth the trip.
Also here is a link to her TED talk, which is also incredible.