Forms and Echoes of Turbulence

Hi everyone! It is my great pleasure to take over the ICP-Bard MFA blog this week! I will be sharing reflections on several films, texts, and artists I am currently discovering for the first time or revisiting with new insights.

I would like to start with a work I have known about for quite a while: Turbulent (1998), by Shirin Neshat. After chewing on layered tensions, meanings, and references within this work for years, one of the more profound things for me this time is in how the black-and-white film addresses the concept of internal displacement and struggle – a splitting or shattering of the self and sense of being.

The male performer, Shoja Azari (vocals by Shahram Nazeri), sings a traditional Persian song. The lyrics are from one of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī’s Poems of Passion, a thirteenth-century Sufi poem about divine love. Here is a translation I recently found:

“How long can I lament with this depressed heart and soul?
How long can I remain a sad autumn ever since my grief has shed my leaves?
The entire space of my soul is burning in agony.
How long can I hide the flames wanting to rise out of this fire?
How long can one suffer the pain of hatred of another human?
A friend behaving like an enemy with a broken heart.
How much more can I take the message from body to soul?
I believe in love.
I swear by love.
Believe me my love.
How long like a prisoner of grief can I beg for mercy?
You know I’m not a piece of rock or steel,
But hearing my story even water will become as tense as a stone.
If I can only recount the story of my life,
Right out of my body flames will grow.”

The woman performer, vocalist, and composer, Sussan Deyhim, continues singing her wordless song – wailing and throbbing – arresting us with her elongated, and at times, abrupt and erratic transformative utterances, filled with lament, loss, and pain. Deyhim’s voice is hypnotic – her performance carries me into this other undefined place, which gives me chills. Her screeches still ring in my ears.

The original installation of this projection consisted of two monitors – one introducing the man, the other, the woman – shown simultaneously on opposite walls, placing the viewer in a place of in-betweenness.

Stay tuned for more soon!

-Nechama Winston

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