Shirin Neshat

30 january 2002 - 05 may 2002

Shirin Neshat was born in Qazvin, Iran in 1957. She left her homeland in 1974 to study art in the United States.

When the Islamic revolution broke out, establishing the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, she was unable to return home.

It was not until Khomeini’s death in 1990 that she could once again travel to Iran, where she was greatly struck by the new lifestyle that the theocratic regime still imposes on its subjects, particularly women.

The artist thus decided to devote her work to a reflection on the profound differences between the Western culture to which she had become assimilated and the Eastern-Islamic culture where she had been raised.

Her art focuses on Islamic religion as it is manifested today, feminism, the relationship between the sexes, censorship in the social order that regulates the expression of desire, diversity and exile. Her perspective, however, remains open to various interpretations. The work does not pass judgment, but rather re-examines ideological certainties.

A similar intention is apparent in the works presented in this exhibition. These include a selection of the artist’s most recent video-installations, accompanied by photographs related to the videos.

In Rapture, 1999, a group of men move together, and in unison, inside a fortress. A projection on the opposite wall shows instead a group of women covered in chadors. They move freely in an outdoor, desert area. Some of the women climb into a boat and put out to sea. This work suggests the absurdity inherent in certain typically male behavior, and reverses stereotypical, gendered roles: in Neshat’s videos, the women move freely and courageously, while the men are prisoners of a fortress – a symbol of manly power.

In Pulse, 2001, is set in a bedroom interior. At the center of the room, a woman crouches in front of a radio and sings the words of a melancholy song that is being played. Even if the viewer may not understand her language, the woman’s attitude expresses a profound need for love.

Possessed, 2001, addresses the disturbing significance of difference. Here, a woman, her head uncovered, talks to herself frantically in the square of an Eastern city. A crowd is both drawn to and disconcerted by her unconventional behavior.

While in the earlier videos Neshat worked with Sussan Deyhim, an important Iranian musician and singer, in Passage, 2001, the artist collaborated with American composer Philip Glass. This more recent project is a meditation on universal themes such as birth, death and the cyclical nature of existence. The splendid soundtrack by Glass adds to the intense dramatic pathos that Neshat achieves.

Giorgio Verzotti