Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shirin Neshat

The main event in this year's visiting filmmakers series is the master class workshop given by acclaimed artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat which will be held from March 24-27 and April 1 & 3. The visit will include a public screening of her three recent short films Zarin ('05), Munis ('08) and Faezeh ('08) which were developed at the Sundance Filmmakers Lab.

The work of Shirin Neshat addresses the social, political and psychological dimensions of women's experience in contemporary Islamic societies. Neshat work actively resists stereotypical representations of Islam and her artistic objectives are not explicitly polemical. Rather, her work recognizes the complex intellectual and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women throughout the world. Neshat often expresses her themes through installations which show two or more coordinated films concurrently on multiple screens, creating stark visual contrasts through the juxtaposition of light and dark, black and white, male and female.

As a photographer and video-artist, Neshat was recognized for her brilliant portraits of women entirely overlaid by Persian calligraphy (notably the “Women of Allah” series). She also directed many videos, among them: Shadow under the Web (’97), Turbulent (’98), Rapture (’99), Soliloquy (’99), Fervor (’00), Passage (’01) (w/ Philip Glass), Tooba (’02), The Last Word (’03), Mahdokht (’04). Neshat also makes more traditional narrative short films, including Zarin (’05), Munis (’08) and Faezeh (’08) and she is currently in post-production on her first feature film Women Without Men, an adaptation of the novel by Sharnush Parsipur.

Neshat gained international recognition in 1999, when she won the International Award at the XLVIII Venice Bienniale with her video installations Turbulent and Rapture, a project involving almost 250 extras and produced by the Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont which met with critical and public success after its worldwide avant-première at the Art Institute of Chicago in May 1999.

According to an article in Time, Neshat seeks to “untangle the ideology of Islam through her art.” However, it is widely recognized that Neshat draws on a wide range of Western and Eastern influences, including commercial cinema. “I try not to define for myself whether I’m an artist or a filmmaker,” she says, “I think film is the most democratic art form… I’ve never thought of my work as innovative, but I never followed any set of rules.”