On June 5, 2018, Otis College will partner with the Hammer Museum to present Shirin Neshat’s screening of a film within a film, “Looking for Oum Kulthum,” which depicts the plight of an Iranian woman artist/filmmaker living in exile as she embarks on capturing the life and art of the legendary female singer of the Arab world, Oum Kulthum.
Commenting about the film, Neshat said, “This film pursues the trajectory of an iconic woman while offering a non-academic look into the history of modern Egypt. My journey into this project began with research and the collection of images and literature written about Oum Kulthum and Egyptian history. Finally, I decided not to make a historical biopic but to tell a personal story, sharing my own perspectives and challenges as an Iranian woman director attempting to make a film about an iconic Egyptian singer.”
Neshat’s film screening will kick off the month-long Summer Residencies and Programs at Otis College of Art and Design, which includes participation by artists, curators, and museum figures such as Graham Harman, Roxane Gay, Eric Fischl, Laurie Hogin, Jamillah James, Naima J. Keith, and Jennifer Steinkamp, among others.
“I am thrilled to have Otis College present the newest artistic offering by Shirin Neshat in partnership with the Hammer and at the beginning of our new summer residency programs. Her continued investigation into the diasporic conditions of artists like herself is always rigorous and often provocative. It is also entertaining and beautiful. Oum Kulthum is a subject who occupies a singular position in twentieth-century celebrity culture—beloved on a world scale and an enigmatic icon to tens of millions,” said Bruce W. Ferguson, President of Otis College. “Having met with Shirin when she was researching this film in Egypt some years ago, I can say that I enthusiastically look forward to not only presenting this film but also to talking about it with her in public. Her artistry and her articulation of her work is exemplary.”
Neshat, who is an Iranian-born artist and filmmaker living in New York, explores and experiments with the mediums of photography, video, and film, continuously pushing new boundaries. Her early photographic works include the Women of Allah series (1993-1997), which explored the question of gender in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy. Her most recent bodies of work include the photographic series The Book of Kings (2012), The Home of My Eyes (2015), and the trilogy Dreamers, comprised of three video installations: Illusions and Mirrors (2013), Roja (2016), and Sarah (2016).
In addition to holding numerous solo exhibitions at galleries and museums worldwide, Neshat has participated in major international group exhibitions, including the 48th Venice Biennale of Art (1999), the Whitney Biennial (2000), Documenta XI (2002), and the exhibition Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East at LACMA (2015). Neshat was the recipient of the Golden Lion Award - the First International Prize at the 48th Venice Biennial (1999), the Hiroshima Freedom Prize (2005), The Crystal Award (2014), and the Praemium Imperiale (2017). Her work is included in the collections of museums and public institutions around the world. In 2009, Neshat directed her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, which received the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the 66th Venice International Film Festival.
Otis College will hold a special viewing of “Looking for Oum Kulthum” for participants of its summer programs in the afternoon. The Hammer Museum will hold a public screening at 7:30pm. The public screening will be free and open to the public with tickets available at the museum’s box office one hour before the program, one per person on a first come, first served basis. Parking is available under the museum at a $6 flat rate (cash only) after 6 p.m.
Photo: Still image from Looking for Oum Kulthum, courtesy of Shirin Neshat.