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

London Design Festival 2012

The London Design Festival opened yesterday at its main hub, the V&A. The festival sees a host of designers, showrooms, design organisations and retailers participating in over 200 events across the city. For a dramatic entrance to the V&A, designer Dominic Harris of Cinimod Studio has collaborated with lighting specialist Philips to create a temporary lighting installation in the underground tunnel entrance to the museum.

Inside the walls of the fabulous museum, conceptual designer Rolf Sachs has responded to the grandeur of the building’s Henry Cole Wing Grand Staircase with an evocative installation that fully exploits the soaring height of the ornate space. Here individual drops of ink are released from the great height into a vast glass tank of illuminated liquid, exploding into organic colour clouds; each one different and mesmerising in form.

Elsewhere in the building, champagne brand Veuve Clicquot has challenged Keiichi Matsuda to create a digital installation called Prism. It is made up from a series of screens through which fast moving data streams are visualised and coaxed into unfolding shapes and patterns of light and colour. It represents an alternative view of London, exposing unseen data flows in the capital through a sculptural, immersive interface suspended in the V&A’s uppermost cupola.

The American Hardwood Export Council set Royal College of Art design products students a brief to design and produce a functional chair using hardwood. Under the leadership of RCA tutors and designers Sebastian Wrong and Harry Richardson, the use of wood as a material and its life-cycle impact had to be taken into consideration by the students. The resulting designs were developed into working prototypes with the help of Sir Terence Conran’s furniture manufacturing firm Benchmark.

Away from the hub highlights include 19 Greek Street, a new venue that opened this month to be London’s hub for craft and sustainability in design. This six-floor Victorian townhouse houses an outpost of ESPASSO, the US specialists in modernist and contemporary Brazilian design.

For the first time, French crystal makers Baccarat exhibits its creations at designjunction, presenting Vase-O-Rama, a new collection in collaboration with Lausanne’s school of art and design ECAL alongside designs by renowned names such as Philippe Starck and Patricia Urquiola.

A new exhibition space has opened on 4 Cromwell Place opposite the V&A. The space is showcasing 12 new and experimental design projects, including Design Marketo, Haptic Thought and the Wonder Cabinets of Europe.

Elsewhere the 2012 African and African-Caribbean Design Diaspora Festival celebrates the breadth, quality and originality of black talent throughout all creative disciplines from the UK and overseas.

The three events of the AACDD Festival during the Festival showcase art installations and themed projects spanning architecture, interior design, furniture, lighting, textiles, glass, ceramics, accessories, fashion, and jewellery, as well as ?ne art, sculpture, graphic design, photography, ?lm, media and multimedia.

The commercial cornerstone of the festival is once again based at 100% Design in Earls Court. The country’s largest single-site design exhibition can be a struggle to get through, but it does give an interesting overview of the more commercial side of the industry.

Elsewhere there is 100% Norway – marking its ninth year here – which as the name suggests showcases pioneering design from the the country. This year it has relocated to a new design district in Tent in East London. Designers include Hallgier Homstvedt, Vibeke Skar, Magnus Pettersen, Caroline Olsson and Transplant as well as a number of the country’s leading manufacturers such as Northern Lighting, Tonning and Wik & Walsoe.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

The London Design Festival runs from 14-23 September at venues across the capital.

Read our report on Digital Crystal: Swarovski at the Design Museum that runs as part of the LDF. Also read our highlights from the LDF 2011.

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