P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2001
May 23, 2001
Internationally Acclaimed Artists to Discuss New Collaboration June 23
Conference of the Birds is based on the writing of Attar and Sufi traditions. As Neshat, who was born in Iran, explains, "In recent years there has been increasing Western interest in the writings of Rumi and other Sufi text, but to me, the translation to contemporary culture has been superficial." With Conference of the Birds, the artists interpret these classic texts in a unique combination of video and live performance. Neshat says, "So many times, when I have been on location shooting a film, a scene or image has held such magic that I have wished for others to share in that moment of creation. Staging a multimedia work will bring that theatricality to life with each performance."
Shirin Neshat -- seen in the 2000 Whitney Biennial and 1999 Venice Biennale -- moved to the United States from Iran to study art. When the Islamic Revolution broke out she was exiled for 11 years only to experience culture shock when she returned to her homeland. Neshat uses photography and video installation to illuminate and juxtapose Western and Islamic culture. Examples of her work include her 1993 photographic series Unveiling which featured life-sized black and white photos of Iranian women in traditional Islamic chadors with only the eyes and hands exposed (as prescribed by Islamic law) but with feminist and pro-Islamic text written on their unveiled extremities. In Women of Allah (1994) Neshat photographed herself in traditional clothing, holding a rifle. Her video installations include Turbulent, Rapture, which consists of two simultaneously projected videos -- women on one side, men on the other -- acting out gender-specific roles and Fervor where a man and woman break tradition and make eye contact during a religious ceremony through a curtain that separates the genders.
Born in Tehran, Sussan Deyhim began her performing career with Pars National Ballet. Based in New York, Deyhim has performed internationally as a vocalist, performance artist and composer collaborating with Micky Hart, Branford Marsalis, Christian Marclay, and Winston Tong among others. Deyhim recorded Queen of Saba in 1981 for Richard Horowitz's album Eros in Arabia. Together they created a multimedia performance Azax/Attra: Desert Equations.
Deyhim has also appeared in many international productions, including Jean Claude Van Italie's The Tibetan Book of the Dead; works by Elizabeth Swados; in Milan in Orfeo of Leonardo da Vinci and La Sacala, by Micha Van Hengs; and in South America and Italy in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Nijinksi, with Lindsay Kemp's English Theater Group. She has performed at Carnegie Recital Hall, LaMama Annes and Central Park's Summer Stage, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New Music America, Ravinia in Chicago, Assilah Festival in Morocco, Festival of the Arts and Technology in Paris, the Berlin 750th Anniversary, ICA in London, ARS and Electronica Festival in Austria, Time Zone Festival in Italy, Colline Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Prado, and Voices of the Universe Festival in Rome. Motion magazine calls Deyhim's voice "rich, sensual and utterly mystifying."
Cinematographer Ghasem Ebrahimian won a 1981 award from the Student Academy Awards and a Dramatic Merit Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Artists and Sciences for his film Willie. He has collaborated with Neshat before on Unveiled, The Penal Colony, and the critically acclaimed Turbulent, where a woman sings -- forbidden by Islamic law -- in an empty theater. The New York Daily News called his most recent film, The Suitors, "a dark comedy that would have made Hitchcock laugh... a riveting, deliciously macabre tale of cultural alienation."
Shoja Azari is the writer behind The Penal Colony and co-producer as well as the male voice in Neshat's Turbulent. Salon.com says of that performance, "His tone is full, rich, but infinitely supple."
Funding for the residency by Shirin Neshat, Sussan Deyhim, Ghasem Ebrahimian, and Shoja Azari is provided in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, through a consortium grant with MASS MoCA and The Kitchen, and by the Bari Lipp Initiative for Dance.
Tickets for In Conversation with Artists-In-Residence Shirin Neshat, Sussan Deyhim, Ghasem Ebrahimina, and Shoja Azari on June 23 are $5 and are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office at 1040 MASS MoCA Way in North Adams from 10 am until 6 pm daily. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased on line at www.massmoca.org.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.
For Immediate Release