Photo by Larry Barns, from Madison.com

 The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (yes, Madison, Wisconsin), is presenting a tremendously interesting installation of video art. Shirin Neshat: Rapture is a dual video installation of 13-minute films: one showing men in Western dress; the other portraying covered Iranian women in chadors and head coverings.

Rapture is being presented in conjunction with Neshat’s much newer (and feature-length) film Women Without Men.  Curator Jane Simon (MA ’03), explains:

“I thought, along with the film, let’s show one of the earlier pieces” such as “Rapture,” Simon said. “They were all the rage in the late ’90s in New York, but somebody in Madison might not know about this and wouldn’t have had the chance to see it then. So why can’t we show it now?”

Excellent idea. One problem with even the best experiential installations is that they take up a lot of room and are time-consuming to view, which usually leads to a very limited display time. And there’s a tendency to give over display space to the latest works, with older installations reserved only for special retrospectives. And Rapture is particularly accessible, in both content and relevance:

“It’s quite a stretch for us. We’re transforming the space,” Simon said. “I think people should come out to see this even if they’re not interested in art, because it’s a gorgeous, elegaic installation film. You don’t really need to know anything else about it to appreciate what she has put on film.”

Neshat’s video becomes “sculptural” because of the way she forces the viewer to see it, said McClure.

“Instead of going to a room where you sit and see a film, she’s using two opposing screens in ‘Rapture,’ which tell two different stories of women and men. You have to choose which screen to watch and which story’s important to you, and then you see the absolute isolation of these two separate images.”

Simon is the Curator of Exhibitions at MMOCA. Shirin Neshat: Rapture opened Friday and will be on display through March 6.

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