Games of Desire
In November 2005, Shirin Neshat, recent winner of the Silver Lion award at the 2009 Venice Biennale, was invited to participate in an art project in Luang Prabang, Laos. While there, she attended a Buddhist ceremony at the Vat That Luang monastery, in which the life of Pha Vet, Buddha’s penultimate reincarnation before enlightenment, is recited by the monks. One evening, on the monastery grounds, Neshat encountered a group of elderly laypeople, socializing and singing with passionate glee. Neshat learned that, during this recital, these men and women camped outside the sanctuary, listening to the reading and singing duets of the courting songs of their youth. Neshat, who has built much of her oeuvre on themes of ritual seduction through song and gesture, decided to make these Laotians the subject of her project, and returned in October 2008 to film the singers, costuming them in neutral colors to focus intensely on the singers themselves, and creating a projection in which male and female singers face each other in erotic tension.