Shirin Neshat’s powerful photographs and films illuminate the gender and cultural conflicts of her native Iran. She currently lives in New York and frequently travels to Iran, though the majority of her work is filmed in Morocco, Turkey, and the United States. Her work, which has never been shown in Iran, declares the female presence in a male dominated culture. She left Iran in 1974 prior to the Iran Islamic Revolution and did not return until 1990. During that time she studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1982. In 1983, Islamic law dictated the wearing of chador
, or the veil, and much of Neshat’s work examines the physical, emotional, and cultural implications of veiled women in Iran.
Upon her return to Iran in 1990, Neshat began to photograph herself wearing the veil. In her films and photographs, the female gaze becomes a powerful and dangerous instrument for communication. Her first series of photographs, Woman of Allah
, 1993-1997, combines images of women with written words taken from religious texts. Neshat further explored cultural taboos through video and video installations. In 1997, she was awarded the 48th Venice Biennial prize for her film Turbulent
, which contrasts a man singing in front of an all male audience, with a woman singing to an empty concert hall. In 2005, the Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Castilla Y León in León, Spain held a major retrospective of her work, titled The Last Word
. Her work has been shown throughout Europe and the United States. In Iran, women are physically and vocally hidden, yet Neshat’s work gives them a voice outside of their country and intensifies Eastern and Western social and cultural differences.
Grand Prix, Kwangju Biennial, Kwangju, South Korea (2000)
First International Prize, Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy (1999)
Grant, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1996)