This riveting exhibition features a split-screen film titled Rapture by Iranian-born New York artist Shirin Neshat. While it is only 11 minutes long, the work is epic in scope and depth. Shot in Morocco, the richly textured black-and-white film presents the battle of the sexes in the Islamic world as a metaphor for the politics of difference.
Projected on opposite walls of the darkened gallery, one side shows crowds of men wearing dark pants and white shirts, while the other shows a large group of women dressed in the traditional Islamic chandor -- dark robes and veils. Accompanied by a powerful soundtrack of pulsing drumbeats and spine-chilling chanting, the women run across a desert seascape toward the foreground shore.
The men, meanwhile, occupy an ancient fort and proceed to carry out a strange ritual. In the end they stand on the ramparts of the fort and wave as the women board a small boat. An especially stirring image in the film shows the women sailing off to unknown shores.
The exhibition also includes several photos taken from the film shoot. In this work, Neshat makes a bold advance in her on-going exploration of the immense chasm that separates cultures, religions and sexes, and the audience is literally caught in the divide of the installation.
Shirin Neshat, "Rapture," May 15-June 19, 1999, at D'Amelio Terras, 525 W. 22nd St., New York, N.Y. 10011.