Monday, February 15, 2010

Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat is an Iranian artist who has grown up in an upper-middle class family in Iran. During her schooling years, the Islamic Revolution started to take place therefore her parents sent her to Berklee in the United States when she was only 17 to keep her safe. She had studied in art, but did not think she was a great painter. It was only 12 years later when she went back to her country for the first time that she was inspired. She found that her country had been greatly transformed because of the Islamic Revolution. She was therefore inspired by her feeling of displacement and exile, and became an artist to face her own anxieties. She made videos and took photographs that explore the role of women in her country as well as the cultural conflicts of the East and West. When I first saw this picture that was taken by Shirin, all I could see was a black and white picture of a hand gesture that has markings all over it. Then, after knowing the author’s background, what inspires her to make videos and take pictures, the Islamic Revolution and the role of women in Islam, I see a very different picture. Now I see a picture that represents the Islamic Revolution as well as the role of women in Shirin’s country. Her hand is covering her mouth as if to say that she cannot be heard and the symbols on her hands are actually poems from anonymous Iranian women. This is a very symbolic picture. As a Westerner, I could see nothing special about this picture at first but after knowing what I know, our perception of the picture changes completely. Shirin explained in her article that Westerners, her main viewers, see her work in a different way then the Iranian people do. She says that her people can relate to her work and are able to read between the lines since they are living the Islamic Revolution. Westerners on the other hand, know little of the Islamic Revolution so how could they possibly understand? Shirin said that while Islamic people can read between the lines of her work, Westerners can only see in black or white. It is either one thing or the other.

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