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A Note on an Artwork by Shirin Neshat: "Passage"

Author : Taranom Taghavi

Reading Time : 5 Minutes

The eleven-and-a-half-minute film "Passage" (2001), which was filmed in the coastal city of Essaouira in Morocco, tells a whole different story. Original copies of this film are kept at MoMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Guggenheim Museum; also, two copies of the film are kept in private collections. The estimated price of this work was between 200000-300000 dollars and it was finally sold on October 21, 2013, at Sotheby's Doha with a price of 269000 dollars.

Neshat has avoided her usual black and white palette in "Passage" and has added color to the scenes. Unlike her previous works, the subject here is based on apocalyptic narratives and shows mourning, suffering, and the cycle of life and death. " Passage" is a three-part narrative of an Islamic funeral ceremony. In the first narrative, a group of men is carrying a body wrapped in a white cloth along a long path on the seashore, and a group of women is digging a grave with their hands along the look of the audience in the distance. In the third scene, near the place where women are digging in, a little girl is playing with sticks and stones. Finally, the camera zooms out to frame the men, women, and children together. At this time, the men put the body on the ground, a fire is lit near the child and burns along a line that surrounds the men and women and the dead body. These enigmatic scenes, accompanied by music by Philip Glass, inspired by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially televised images of funerals, are one of Neshat's most impressive works.

In one scene, we are faced with a vast sandy region that contains the whole story. At the closest distance to the audience's look, a little girl is kneeling in front of a hill of stones, with her back to the camera, as if she is taking shelter in front of a burning fire. A long and inseparable line of burning flames extends from her to the horizon and surrounds two separate groups of figures wearing black, seated women and standing men who are near the corpse. The ground is rocky and uneven and the sun is setting, and the smoke rising from the fire and the reddish glow of the scene have created a mysterious atmosphere. The fire in a funeral is a cue for the viewer to ritual and mythological concepts. From the fire that tests and differentiates the good and the sinners, the creator fire and the symbol of resurrection, to the intermediate fire between the earth and the sky, all of them are a symbol of the transition from one stage of transformation to a higher stage of understanding and knowledge. To pass the previous stage, you have to pass through the fire like Siyâvash and burn yourself like Phoenix so that a young phoenix is ​​born from your ashes. This revival is a symbol of the birth of life after death and a manifestation of the regeneration of reason and wisdom.