Iranian Contemporary Artist Speaks of exile, Diaspora, and Displacement

Shirin Neshat started her artmaking in 1993, and her first exhibition was a set of photos called Women of Allah which proposed the issues of Neshat’s displacement within Islamic ideology and art. Born in 1957, Iran, she is one of the well-known, American-based contemporary artists of today, who has gone beyond to explore the issues of exile, diaspora, belonging, and displacement. In her series of photos, Neshat present the militant Muslim women that subvert the stereotype and examines the Islamic idea of martyrdom. All photographs are in black and white and in most of her photographs, she is including the Farsi or Arabic text on faces or hands, chador (which is the women cover), and showing gun in few of them.

Few years later, Neshat began working on video and sound installations which result Rapture in 1999, which was influenced by her Fervor. These two works including her earlier work called Turbulent has composed a “trilogy on human identity, inflected by differences in gender and culture, which situates the work at the heart of art world preoccupations today.”
Rapture is a twelve minute poetic video in black and white which focuses on the differentiation of gender role both visually and spatially and addresses to the traditional and cultural aspect of patriarchy and fundamentalist society of Iran. After visiting Iran, Neshat started analyzing the differences between the western and eastern cultures and this emphasis has made a great impact on all of her artworks. Neshat’s powerful art is characterized by a visual lyricism and elegant beauty that is always captivating and occasionally confusing.

In today globalized world, artists such as Shirin Neshat play a significant role to represent the differences between the cultures of her homeland and home she currently lives in. As an Iranian, I feel privileged to look at Neshat’s work and compare and contrast my personal experiences through the different worlds. Also the foreign viewers, who never had experienced the Islamic country such as Iran, will definitely enjoy and get a sense of the way Neshat has illustrated her works through her own view.
By Jaleh Fotoohi
Check these two PBS interviews with Charlie Rose:  January 2002 and June 2006