Shirin Neshat latest body of work, ‘The Fury’, is a timely politically charged artwork

Still from The Fury by Shirin Neshat, 2023

Upstairs at the Goodman Gallery in London hang large-scale black-and-white photographs of women. Look closer at their naked bodies, parts of which are symbolically covered, and these women of various ages and ethnicities bear signs of abuse and mutilation. Meanwhile, downstairs in the gallery, the video installation tells the stylised, fictional story of a woman struggling with her memories of imprisonment and rape.

‘The Fury’ is the latest body of work by the New York-based Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, who, since the 1990s, has captivated viewers — and in some instances caused controversy — through an art that investigates gender and society, time and memory, the individual and the collective, and the complexities and contradictions of Islam, told through a personal and diasporic lens.

Neshat’s mesmerising, cinematic, large-scale black-and-white photography is overlaid with handwritten Farsi calligraphy — poetry, prose — inviting the viewer to read more than the surface image. Likewise, with her feature films and film installations, she has created her own unique moving image language.

‘The Fury’ was shot in June 2022 near Neshat’s Brooklyn studio. In the film, the female protagonist is played by Iranian-American actor Sheila Vand, while the remaining cast are Neshat’s co-students from her African dance class. In the film, dance expresses liberation — it is fundamental to the storytelling. Choreographed by Neshat’s teacher, the climax scene is a stirring ritual of movement expressing protest and rage, performed to the haunting vocals of Tunisian musician Emel Mathlouthi, singing “Soltane Ghalbha” (meaning king of hearts, a heartfelt Iranian love song from 1968), the melody slowed down, and the lyrics retold in Arabic.

I spoke with Shirin Neshat to see what she hopes the viewer will take from this body of work.

See the full interview here

Shirin Neshat Flavia #2, from The Fury series, 2023 © Shirin Neshat/Goodman Gallery

Recalling some of the highlights of the summer’s exhibition

“O que é um museu?” (What is a Museum?), Lina Bo Bardi – A Marvellous Entanglement (2019) © Isaac Julien, Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro. Photo Angus Milll/Tate

From Isaac Julien’s political, poetic and utterly gorgeous show at Tate Britain to the equally powerful Carrie Mae Weems survey at the Barbican, Tomás Saraceno spiders and other species awakening us to our connection to nature at the Serpentine Galleries in conversation with Lina Ghotmeh’s delicate timber Serpentine Pavilion, and Leonardo Drew’s explosive installation at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Chapel, there’s been no shortage of excellent art and design in London and beyond this summer season.

Read the full article here

Dip into the layered world created by Tomás Saraceno in ‘Web[s] of Life’ at Serpentine Gallery

Multidisciplinary artist Tomás Saraceno observe how different life forms, technologies and energy systems are connected in the climate emergency at Serpentine Galleries.
Details of “Web.Life 202.3.” courtesy the spider/webs

At the entrance to “Tomás Saraceno in Collaboration: Web[s] of Life,” we are politely asked to surrender our phones. There is no apparent judgment; instead, the act is more performative as our gadgets are safely slotted in what appears like an old wooden shelving unit and exchanged with an oracle card, “Arachnomancy Card,” with a personalized message (mine read: “planetary drift”). We are free, of course, to choose not to give away our phones. Yet it seems a missed opportunity: to truly immerse in the lively and layered world created by Tomás Saraceno for London’s Serpentine Galleries requires this small sacrifice.

Later, I reflect on what a relief it was not to reach out for my iPhone at every photo opportunity (and there are plenty), to be in the moment and absorb the chapters that unfold in each room and onto the surrounding Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. As Saraceno’s first major exhibition in the UK, “Web[s] of Life” takes on a lot. Ultimately it aims to observe how different life forms, technologies and energy systems are connected in the climate emergency. Art, for Saraceno, has active agency.

Read my full review here

“Tomás Saraceno in Collaboration: Web[s] of Life,” at the Serpentine Galleries South

‘Isaac Julien: What freedom is to me’ at Tate Britain is a politically charged yet stunning exhibition

Installation view, ‘Once Again… (Statues Never Die)’ Tate Britain, 2023. © Isaac Julien, Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

‘Isaac Julien: What freedom is to me’ at Tate Britain is a powerful and poetic, and beautifully designed exhibition that reveals a career as compelling today as it was forty years ago, when the British artist began showing his politically charged films and video art installations.

Tate curators Isabella Maidment and Nathan Ladd worked closely with the artist and his long-term friend the architect David Adjaye to imagine and design this first UK retrospective of Julien.

We enter the exhibition wrapped around in large screens showing Julien’s latest film, ‘Once Again… [Statues Never Die]’ (2022), and from a clearing of sorts are then tasked to choose our own path, directed by sound, colour and scent, as a narrative unfolds based on that decision.

The curators have successfully designed an exhibition experience for the visitor that reflects Julien’s fascination with image, sound, space, movement. Maidment calls them sonic tapestries that draw you through the exhibition as it unfolds.

She notes a passage from ‘Once Again… [Statues Never Die]’ that illustrates the show so poignantly. The line is narrated the character playing Alain Locke — the writer and cultural critic, and philosophical architect of the Harlem Renaissance:

‘As we mature as artists in the mythical diasporic dream space, the culture of infinite possibility is ready to receive us. This is artistic freedom as pure and as unsullied as the falling snow.’

On until August 20 at Tate Britain.

Read my full review here

All images: Installation view, ‘Once Again… (Statues Never Die)’ Tate Britain, 2023. © Isaac Julien, Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Studio Wayne McGregor investigates the human/machine relation in the information age

Contemporary dance company Wayne McGregor has teamed up with experimental art studios Random International and Superblue to explore the human relation to machine and technology. Informed by the technology behind BMW i, ‘No One is an Island’ combines sculptural, performative and musical elements. Through electrified movement steered by advanced algorithms and inspired by Picasso’s light drawings, it reflects on how the human mind can empathise with artificial intelligence and automated processes. Dancers perform to the electronic sound of Chihei Hatakeyama adding a performative dimension to the sculpture, while re-translating and celebrating the connection between human and mechanical movement.

A series of digital and live performances are now planned for 2021. 
Learn more on ‘No One is an Island’ here

Images: ‘No One is an Island’ by Random International, Superblue, Studio Wayne McGregor and BMW i and dancers Jacob O’Connell and Rebecca Bassett- Graham (company Wayne McGregor). Photo Ravi Deepres © BMW AG