“Art is our weapon. Culture is a form of resistance.” –Shirin Neshat
Iranian artist Shirin Neshat finds the politics of her country inescapable, a position she both laments and embraces in her work. Throughout her photography and films, Neshat balances a demand for respect from the western world for her culture and her deep criticism of Iran’s government and treatment of women. The Boca Raton Museum of Art shows two of Neshat’s films, Fervor and Turbulent in a solo exhibition on view August 8 through October 22, 2017.
Neshat was born in Iran in 1957. She came to United States in 1975 but chose to remain in New York City after the Iranian Revolution (1978-1979). As an internationally celebrated artist known for her artistic and allegorical interpretations of Iranian culture and history, particularly from the point of view of women, concerns for her safety under the current regime have kept Neshat from visiting her native country since 1996.
“Artists in exile,” Neshat says in the opening of a 2010 TED Talk, “an artist like myself, finds herself in the position of being a speaker for her people, even though I have no access to my country.”
Speaking, or lack thereof, is a nexus between the two films on view at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. Neshat’s two-channel video Turbulent (1998) focuses on gender relationships in Iran through music and performance. Despite a rich tradition of female performers in Iran, in the current extreme interpretation of Shi’ite law women are not allowed to sing in public. In this video a man performs before an audience while a woman sings a wordless song alone. Fervor (2000) similarly employs two screens to show the stories of a man and woman in the same place at the same time, but unable to connect in the midst of a revolutionary Iranian culture with a negative view of love.
“Unfortunately this showcase of social injustice in Iranian culture remains as timely as ever,” museum curator Kathleen Gocharov says. “But it also highlights how artists are increasingly using new mediums to shed light and change perceptions about important issues worldwide.”