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Turbulent
1998
Two-channel video projection: LaserDisc transferred to DVD (black and white, sound)
Dimensions: 10' Variable dimensions
Reference: ACF0681
Edition: 2/3
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The video installation Turbulent, which won a prize at the 1999 Venice Biennale, consists of two black and white projections onto walls that face each other in a dark space. The Iranian singer Shahran Nazeri appears on one wall: he is shown in the foreground facing the camera, with his back to his male audience, singing a popular song in play-back. Facing him, on the opposite wall, is Susan Deyhim, a singer of non-traditional music, shown wearing a black cloak and standing with her back to the camera, waiting for him to finish. Once the man has concluded and taken his bow, the woman turns around, faces the camera and begins to sing to a completely empty room. The men are still there on the opposite wall, but are impassive; it is impossible to say whether they can see or hear her. In this work, Shirin Neshat portrays in a simple manner the Muslim world of song, in which women performers are excluded. At the same time she reflects on the role of the sexes in Iranian society and emphasises its delimitation and territorial organisation. The main element in the construction of these images is the space itself -a symbolic space inhabited by the tradition that Shirin Neshat attempts to oust in order to make possible the existence of new spaces where more up-to-date meanings can be created. This double video projection thus symbolically reproduces the whole of Iranian society: the audience, full and male; and the female void. This divide is heightened by the use of colour: white for the men and black for the women. Once she has presented the dichotomy, Neshat undermines its validity with a shift in positions which is revealed after a closer reading of the piece. The men's impassiveness in the face of the incursion by the woman, their uniform appearance and their immobility gradually drain their presence and they move from positive to negative, from full to empty. In the case of the woman, the magnitude of her very tragedy and the theatricality of her figure progressively fill the empty space and absence becomes presence. The spaces represented in the projections are taken apart, and the power of the setting of the installation that physically divides the piece into two areas, in such a way that they face each other and accentuate the distance between man and woman, at the same time creates a space for negotiation and reconciliation. Shirin Neshat presents us with an arena of confrontation in which we are faced with a dilemma and are forced to react. It is precisely in this space that the artist proposes that the conflict be negotiated; it is an intermediate space for dialogue, which represents the desire for change.

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