Disrupting the Binary, Reclaiming the Narrative: The Representation of the Eastern Other in Shirin Neshat's Turbulent and Rapture and Emily Jacir's Memorial..

Susannah Myers
This art history thesis examines the early video work of Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat's and a seminal installation work by Palestinian artist Emily Jacir. I argue that Neshat and Jacir employ two distinct processes of representing the 'Eastern other' for primarily American and European audiences: Neshat's is a dialectic one, using a system of hyperaestheticized divisive binaries that dialectically break down into a network of ambiguities, while Jacir takes a factographic approach that is
more » ... approach that is unequivocally political and pedagogical in everything from its deadpan materiality to its title. These two processes, I argue, are not merely formal decisions, but are tailored specifically to the sociopolitical circumstances of Iran and Palestine, respectively. The thesis is broken into three sections examining the means of these approaches. My first chapter provides an indepth visual analysis of all three works and examines the way in which their aesthetic approaches construct their processes of representation. My second chapter discusses Neshat and Jacir's use of the body, and the way in which their works' immersive viewer experiences make the spectator's body a site that questions the boundaries enacted by the East-West binary. Crucially, this chapter examines the ways in which Jacir's tent piece begins to operate dialectically—though still in a very different mode from Neshat's videos—by using Western bodies to invoke the presence of Palestinian bodies within the tent. The third chapter looks at the two women and their oeuvres as products of two very different exiles, and examines the ethics of the appropriation of the exilic condition for the Western gaze. This final chapter and the conclusion ultimately attempt to provide a critical stance on Neshat and Jacir's relative success of their objectives.
doi:10.7916/d8db822z fatcat:f2y6lumxebg73kejqcb7wztg3a