Art blogger Todd Gibson recently took his 8-month-old daughter to see a video art piece by Shirin Neshat. The kid sat, transfixed for a while, and then suddenly started wailing. [He took her out immediately, btw, without prompting from any "inside voices" signs.]
But then he discovered that the kid was not alone; turns out many viewers, including at least one other art blogger, reported crying at that same moment in the film.
The scene depicts a nude woman--a prostitute--in a hamam, who switches from washing to mutilating herself, scraping her flesh until she bleeds. It's at once disturbing and transgressive (and not just of Muslim cultural norms that preclude full nudity). Todd writes:
This makes me wonder if there isnÝt something hard coded into humans, something existing deep in the preconscious portion of our brains, that recognizes when certain, basic assumptions about human behavior are challenged.On the Universal in Art, or Another Post about Crying [from the floor]
When Zarin begins scrubbing her skin raw, Neshat shows a person violating something fundamental to human natureˇa will to self-preservation, a preference for pleasure over pain.
Shirin Neshat's show, Zarin, continues at Barbara Gladstone Gallery through Nov. 12, this Saturday [gladstonegallery]