Veiled women in their traditional Islamic attire

Shirin Neshat - Rapture, 1999, Gelatin silver print, 108x171.5cm
Shirin NeshatRapture, 1999, gelatin silver print, 108×171.5cm

The Rapture is a projection of black and white video where Iranian artist Shirin Neshat gives a narrative that concerns the differences between Muslim women and men. Neshat has used the video projection to explore the cultural and social role of women in the Islamic World and shot the work in Morocco with a cast that included hundreds of participants.

The 13min film is set against a very emotive soundtrack with two groups of people showing side by side. The first group includes identically dressed men who are at a fortress performing mundane activities and elaborate rituals. The other group shows veiled women in their traditional Islamic attire crossing a desert and act in movement and gestures that are not tightly prescribed.

Neshat brings about ready associations with the gendered spaces and also brings about contrasts. In the case of men, they are entrenched firmly in the authority and tradition of Islam. Women, on the other hand, are protected by Islam but also imprisoned by the chadors or the traditional black veils.

As you further watch video, you will find a number of implications of Islam across the set. For example, when a group of six women boards a rowboat and sets to cross the sea, the artist does not let us know what awaits them on the other end. It could be freedom, martyrdom, or redemption. This ending is also seen as a testament of the braveness and adventurousness of the women. As the men stay within their set boundaries, women are brave enough to look for better things beyond their current limitations.

One of the features of the high acclaimed 13-minute video installation is the ability to bring the body expressions of the veiled women despite being covered all over the body. The video also shows a mix of meditative scenes, elegiac scenes, and continuous loops. At one point, the men roll out their prayer rugs, but they quarrel. On the other hand, as the men navigate a stone building, the women seems to be crying out. However, it is not clear if they are crying out of anger or celebration.

Neshat was brought up in Iran but later moved to the United States. Her experiences in both places have shaped most of her artworks. She says her work does not have any opinions. She puts herself in the position of asking questions but does not give the answers. The ‘No Position’ enables her to put her audience to critical thinking on the best way to deal with the problems she exposes.

Shirin Neshat - Rapture, 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Rapture, 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Rapture (still), 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Rapture (still), 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Rapture (still), 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Rapture (still), 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Rapture (still), 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Rapture (still), 1999 two-channel video:audio installation, 16mm film transferred to video
Shirin NeshatRapture (still), 1999, two-channel video installation, black-and-white, sound, 16mm film transferred to video, edition of 5

Shirin Neshat - Untitled from Rapture, 1999, unique gelatin silver print, 34.9 x 56.8cm
Shirin NeshatUntitled from Rapture, 1999, unique gelatin silver print, 34.9 x 56.8cm

Shirin Neshat - Untitled from Rapture, 1999, gelatin silver print, 75x182cm
Shirin NeshatUntitled from Rapture, 1999, gelatin silver print, 75x182cm

Shirin Neshat - Untitled from Rapture, 1999, chromogenic print, 40.64 x 50.8cm
Shirin NeshatUntitled from Rapture, 1999, chromogenic print, 40.64×50.8cm

 

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