Source: edited and extended from Wikipedia
Shirin Neshat (Persian: شیرین نشاط; born March 26, 1957) is an Iranian visual artist who lives in New York City, known primarily for her work in film, video and photography.
Her artwork centers around the contrasts between Islam and the West, femininity and masculinity, public life and private life, antiquity and modernity, and bridging the spaces between these subjects. Neshat often emphasizes this theme showing two or more coordinated films concurrently, creating stark visual contrasts through motifs such as light and dark, black and white, male and female.
Although Neshat actively resists stereotypical representations of Islam, her artistic objectives are not explicitly polemical. Rather, her work recognizes the complex intellectual and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women throughout the world. Using Persian poetry and calligraphy she examined concepts such as martyrdom, the space of exile, the issues of identity and femininity.
Neshat has been recognized countless times for her work, from winning the International Award of the XLVIII Venice Biennalein 1999, to winning the Silver Lion for best director at the 66th Venice Film Festival in 2009, to being named Artist of the Decade by Huffington Post critic G. Roger Denson.
In July 2009 Neshat took part in a three-day hunger strike at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in protest of the 2009 Iranian presidential election.
Neshat’s earliest works were photographs exploring notions of femininity in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy in her home country as a way of coping with the discrepancy between the culture that she was experiencing and that of the pre-revolution Iran in which she was raised.
Women of Allah (1993–97): portraits of women entirely overlaid by Persian calligraphy.
Logic of the Birds 2001-02 a full-length multimedia production with singer Sussan Deyhim and produced by curator and art historian RoseLee Goldberg. Neshat uses sound to help create an emotionally evocative and beautiful piece that will resonate with viewers of both Eastern and Western cultures.
Neshat has also made more traditional narrative short films, such as Zarin.
- Turbulent, 1998. Two channel video/audio installation.
- Rapture, 1999. Two channel video/audio installation.
- Soliloquy, 1999. Color video/audio installation with artist as the protagonist.
- Fervor, 2000. Two channel video/audio installation.
- Passage, 2001. Single channel video/audio installation.
- Logic of the Birds, 2002. Multi-media performance.
- Tooba, 2002. Two channel video/audio installation based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel Women Without Men.
- Mahdokht, 2004. Three channel video/audio installation.
- Zarin, 2005. Single channel video/audio installation.
- Munis, 2008. Color video/audio installation based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel Women Without Men.
- Faezeh, 2008. Color video/audio installation based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel Women Without Men.
- Possession, 2009. Black & white video/audio installation.
- Women Without Men, 2009. Feature film based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel Women Without Men.
- Illusions & Mirrors, 2013. Film commissioned by Dior and featuring Natalie Portman.
Neshat is the fourth of five children of wealthy parents, brought up in the religious town of Qazvin in north-western Iran under a “very warm, supportive Muslim family environment”, where she learned traditional religious values through her maternal grandparents. Neshat’s father was a physician and her mother a homemaker. Neshat said that her father, “fantasized about the west, romanticized the west, and slowly rejected all of his own values; both my parents did. What happened, I think, was that their identity slowly dissolved, they exchanged it for comfort. It served their class”.
As a part of Neshat’s “Westernization” she was enrolled in a Catholic boarding school in Tehran. Through her father’s acceptance of Western ideologies came an acceptance of a form of western feminism. Neshat’s father encouraged each of his daughters to “be an individual, to take risks, to learn, to see the world”, and he sent his daughters as well as his sons to college to receive their higher education.
After graduating school, she moved to New York and married a Korean curator, Kyong Park, who was the director and founder of Storefront for Art and Architecture, a non-profit organization. Neshat helped Park run the Storefront, where she was exposed to many different ideologies and it would become a place where she received a much needed experience with and exposure to concepts that would later become integral to her artwork.
During this time, she did not make any serious attempts at creating art, and the few attempts were subsequently destroyed.
In 1990, she returned to Iran. “It was probably one of the most shocking experiences that I have ever had. The difference between what I had remembered from the Iranian culture and what I was witnessing was enormous. The change was both frightening and exciting; I had never been in a country that was so ideologically based. Most noticeable, of course, was the change in people’s physical appearance and public behavior.