Mythology, history, social events and the political situation in her country (Iran) is the source of inspiration for the work of Shirin Neshat, the emotions and personal life experiences and also the emphasizing of the important role played by women in the Iranian revolution, have also played an essential role in her artistic practice.
By Dimitris Lempesis
Photo: Gladstone Gallery Archive
“Dreamers”, the new solo exhibition of Shirin Neshat marks the first time she fully turns her attention to American culture, dissecting the tense and querying experience of being an Iranian in the United States today. In both the film “Roja” (2016) and a new series of photographs, Neshat confronts the ambivalence of living across two cultures and how it coheres to both personal and political identity. To tackle the ambiguous status of the outsider, she utilizes enigmatic images, haunting encounters, and mystified points of view influenced by the surrealist films of Man Ray and Maya Deren. “Roja” (2016), drawn from Neshat’s own recurring dreams, memories, and desires, traces an Iranian woman’s disquieting attempts at connection with American culture while reconciling her identification with her home country. Encountering her own sense of alienation from both, the titular protagonist. Throughout the film, she estranges American landscapes, the utopic attempts of government architecture and coalmines that evoke the terrain of the Middle East, to situate Roja within an ambiguous psychic and political terrain. Using nonlinear narratives and destabilizing in-camera techniques, the film questions the relationships that tie us to the world and reveals the transcendence of release into spaces unbounded by socio-historical demarcations. “”I have been haunted by the power of dreams for years, in how it is only in the state of dreams that human beings are truly free and naked. I am fascinated by how, in a state of dreams, the boundaries between madness and sanity, reality and fiction, conscious and subconscious are blurred and broken. … “Roja” and “Sarah” are an effort to make sense of the more subliminal emotional and psychic universe that lives deep inside of us, but is difficult to explain through words”. Along with the film, new photographs also represent a departure for Neshat. Obscured and blurry, these portraits become a metaphor for the mystifications that enforce cultural boundaries and question how socially constructed difference limits sympathetic attachments across race, class, and nationality.
Info: Gladstone Gallery, 515 West 24th Street, New York, Duration: 19/5-17/6/17, Days & Hours: Tue-Sat 10:00-18:00, www.gladstonegallery.com