By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
In the final minutes of the film, a close-up of bare feet dancing on a drum segues into imagery of the women dragging a battered wooden boat to the edge of the sea from the rocky shore as the men watch wordlessly from the battlements of the fortress. In the background, melancholic voices sing a haunting, unstructured song. A few of the women, with the help of the others left behind, climb into the boat and motor out to open sea. As the rest of the women walk with their backs turned toward the sea like a flock of seabirds, the men stand mute on the battlements, waving their arms in slow motion in an apparent attempt to induce the women to return.
Rapture is, on one level, a lyrical treatment of women both physically and psychically imprisoned by the traditional restraints imposed upon them by fundamentalist Islamic society (needless to say, Neshat hasn't been particularly welcome back in Iran because of her work). But this visually stunning, richly layered video, marked with unmistakable traces of the artist's training as a painter, deftly soars above mere political statement or feminist agitprop into universally understood visual poetry about communication (and lack thereof), restraint, tradition and ritual, loss, liberty and escape.
This show will continue through September 16
There's a cabalistic quality, a sense of mystery and cryptic ceremony, to Neshat's film that's at once compelling and oppressive, not unlike the aura of religion itself. The only thing that could possibly make Rapture any better than it already is would be for the museum to have concurrently shown the other two films in Neshat's trilogy -- though the film stands complete and unassailable by itself. But people in hell want ice water, so I'll just have to be thankful that such a remarkable work can be seen throughout the summer right here in the Valley -- for free.