Rebellious Silence (1994).
B&W RC print & ink, photo by Cynthia Preston.
Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
In 1993-97, I produced my first body of work, a series of stark black-and-white photographs entitled Women of Allah, conceptual narratives on the subject of female warriors during the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979. On each photograph, I inscribed calligraphic Farsi text on the female body (eyes, face, hands, feet, and chest); the text is poetry by contemporary Iranian women poets who had written on the subject of martyrdom and the role of women in the Revolution. As the artist, I took on the role of performer, posing for the photographs. These photographs became iconic portraits of willfully armed Muslim women. Yet every image, every women’s submissive gaze, suggests a far more complex and paradoxical reality behind the surface.
Shirin Neshat (born 1957, Qazvin), who lives and works in New York City, left Iran in 1974 to study in Los Angeles. She stayed in California, receiving her BFA and MFA at the University of California, Berkeley. She then moved to New York, where she married the Korean art curator Kyong Park; the two jointly ran the New York exhibition and performance space the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Neshat returned to Iran in 1990, eleven years after the Islamic Revolution, and was shocked by what she saw. That trip led to her first body of work, the photographic series Women of Allah, consisting of conceptual narratives on the subject of female warriors during the Revolution. Neshat works in photography, video, film, and performance, often addressing the theme of the alienation of women in repressed Muslim societies.
Neshat’s work is celebrated and shown globally. Since 2000, selected solo exhibitions include Shirin Neshat, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2000; Shirin Neshat: Two Installations, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, 2000; Shirin Neshat, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 2001; Shirin Neshat, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2001; Shirin Neshat, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 2002; Shirin Neshat, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, 2003; Shirin Neshat: Earlier and Recent Works, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, 2005; The Last Word, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, León, 2005; Shirin Neshat, Stedelijk Museum CS, Amsterdam, 2006; Shirin Neshat, Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon, 2007; Women Without Men, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, and Kulturhuset, Stockholm, 2009; Shirin Neshat, La Fabrica Galería, Madrid and Brussels, 2010; Women Without Men, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2011. Her work has been included in all the significant international group shows, including the Venice Biennale, 1999; Whitney Biennial, New York, 2000; Documenta XI, Kassel, 2002; and Prospect 1, New Orleans Biennial, 2008.
Neshat has been the recipient of accolades worldwide, among them the First International Award at the Forty-Eighth Venice Biennale, 1999; Grand Prix, Kwangju Biennale, Seoul, 2000; Visual Art Award, Edinburgh International Film Festival, 2000; Infinity Award for Visual Art, International Center for Photography, New York, 2002; Fine Art Prize, Heitland Foundation, Celle, Germany, 2003; honoree at The First Annual Risk Takers in the Arts Celebration, given by the Sundance Institute, New York, 2003; ZeroOne Award, Universität der Künste, Berlin, 2003; Hiroshima Freedom Prize, Hiroshima City Museum of Art, 2005; Lillian Gish Prize, 2006; Creative Excellence Award at the Reykjavik International Film Festival, 2008; Cultural Achievement Award, Asia Society, New York, 2008; Rockefeller Foundation Media Arts Fellowship, New York, 2008. Her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, received the Silver Lion Award, Prix La Navicella; UNICEF Award at the Sixth-Sixth Venice International Film Festival; and the Cinema for Peace Special Award, Hessischer Filmpreis, Germany, all 2009.