News / Arts & Entertainment

Iranian-Born Artist Explores Cost Of Egypt's Revolution

Iranian-Born Artist Explores Cost Of Egypt's Revolutioni
X
February 24, 2014 8:00 AM
The work of Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat has been heralded by art critics and collected by major museums. Her photographs, films and video installations deal with gender, politics and religion in the Islamic world. VOA's Carolyn Weaver reports.

Iranian-Born Artist Explores Cost Of Egypt's Revolution

Carolyn Weaver
The work of Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat, whose photographs, films and video installations deal with gender, politics and religion in the Islamic world, has been heralded by art critics and collected by major museums.

Although Neshat has lived in the United States since the 1970s, her work has most often been focused on the lives of women in Iran, and more recently with the aftermath of the Arab Spring in Egypt.
 
In 2010, a critic for The Huffington Post named her "Artist of the Decade," saying that Neshat's art reflects the struggle for human rights by "voiding stereotypes," revealing the "diversity within Islam and Iran." 

Neshat's 2009 film, Women Without Men, a magical-realist tale of women in Iran at the time of the 1953 coup, won the top directing award at the Venice Film Festival. 

She is equally well known for her photographic portraits, on which she inscribes verses of Persian poetry in tiny script. Her current show, Our House Is on Fire, is at New York's Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which chose Neshat for its annual human rights commission to an individual artist. She used it to make portraits of poor, elderly people in Egypt. She conceived the project after the sudden death of the daughter of her long-time photographer, Larry Barns.

“The concept of this exhibition is about the aftermath of the wonderful Arab Spring, which we hope is still continuing, but for the moment has had some catastrophic results,” Neshat said in an interview. “And I wanted to create a group of photographs that talks about the human dimension, the street people that have lost a great deal, lost loved ones.”

She interviewed men and women through an Arabic language interpreter, asking them to think about the losses they had suffered as Barns captured their images.

“I told them if they wanted to talk about it, I was all ears, but if they didn't want to talk about it, and just respond to it by their facial expression, that was also perfectly fine.  It's the first time I have come this close to being a documentary artist, in a way that's really tapping into real human beings and real emotions, as opposed to fictional characters that try to play a role,” she said.

The portraits resemble photo-realistic drawings, an effect caused by the microscopic calligraphy overlaid on the faces, visible only in extreme close-up.
The show also includes photographs of feet, soles up, with identifying toe-tags dangling. Neshat said those images were in response to the Egyptian military's attack on Muslim Brotherhood protesters last summer.

“I was just struck by the endless amount of images I saw of dead young people, that were all laid down, and they had these feet, and the tag that came as their identity, I suppose,” Neshat said. “And I felt in the context of this narrative that it was very important for us to remind ourselves again that the euphoric and wonderful, inspiring energy that came from the Arab Spring, so much of it ended in terrible violence.”

The Rauschenberg Foundation will donate the proceeds from two of the works from Our House  Is on Fire to a rights initiative of the artist's choosing, in this case, human rights in Egypt. Neshat’s next project is a fictional film about the legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, which she plans to begin shooting later this year or early in 2015.

Additional reporting by Melody Safavi.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

At Washington’s Blues Alley jazz singer Jane Monheit and her quartet perform songs made famous by Judy Garland. Monheit sits down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about her music, the singers who influence her, and her life traveling with family on tour.