“I destroyed evidence of all this work. Honestly, I had to be one of the weakest artists at the school.”
“Playing a role, being a performer, I was the master of my own ceremony. I was in control. I felt like, ‘this is me.’”
“Eventually, I made a little money from my artwork, and I couldn’t believe that I had a little bit of luxury. Struggling was an important experience for me.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Header image, from left to right: Shirin Neshat with Thelma Golden at the opening of Neshat’s exhibition “Turbulent” at the Whitney Museum in 1998 (upper); Shirin Neshat at University of California, Berkeley circa 1979–80 (lower); Shirin Neshat at University of California, Berkeley circa 1979–80 (center); Shirin Neshat, “Untitled,” from Roja series, 2016. © Shirin Neshat (upper); Shirin Neshat with film extras for Rapture circa 2000 (lower); Press release from Franklin Furnace for Shirin Neshat’s “Unveiling,” in New York City,1993 (background). All images courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Frank Stella was teaching at UC Berkeley when Neshat was there. He was not. The text has been updated to reflect this change.