Curator: Mária Kondor-Szilágyi Iranian-born visual artist Shirin Neshat (b. 1957), who has lived in the United States since 1974, gained worldwide renown beginning with her photographic work and video installations, which reflect on the social structures of the Islamic world, and the situation of women in Iran. Among other themes, her work in various media investigates issues of gender, power, displacement, protest, identity and the space between the personal and the political.
The two works on view in Shirin Neshat’s first solo exhibition in Hungary demonstrate the range of her work in the medium of video. Her early black-and-white videos of the 1990sare represented by Rapture (1999), a two-channel video installation, and her later works in color by Zarin (2005), which is part of a five-piece series (Mahdokht, Zarin, Munis, Faezeh, Farokh Legha), each dedicated to a female character. This project became the core of the artist’s prize-winning film Women without Men (2009), based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s 1989 novel of the same title. Presenting Zarin from this series is no haphazard choice: the prostitute who lives on the periphery of society and then decides to flee is played by Orsi Tóth, a Hungarian actress known to quite a few cinema and theatre goers.
Both works display a similar sensitivity in their approach to social issues; however, while Rapture is marked by stylized images and a surrealist effect, Zarin is characterized by a more realistic lens. Neshat acknowledges that her works highlight the controversies of the social structures in Iran and the Islamic world, in particular the position of women. As an artist in exile, she aims to bridge deeply personal issues with critical social, political, and historical questions that concern the various worlds she inhabits, physically or otherwise. Capturing and investigating opposing forces – including masculine/feminine, mystical/political, poetry/violence, personal loss/social crisis – Neshat departs from overtly political content or critique in favor of exploring poetic imagery and complex human narratives.
Shirin Neshat studied art at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1970s. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, she did not return to her homeland for several years. In 1983, she moved to New York, where she has lived and worked ever since. Her video works, photographic series and feature films have been shown around the world, most recently in a 2013survey exhibition mounted by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Previous venues of her solo exhibitions include the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Tate Gallery in London, the Kunsthalle Vienna, and the Serpentine Gallery in London.
Neshat’s work has been acknowledged with a number of prestigious awards. In 1999, she won the Golden Lion at the 48th International Art Exhibition of Venice; in 2000 she received the Grand Prix at the Gwangju Biennale; in 2002 the New York International Centre of Photography gave her its prize; and in 2005 she was awarded the Hiroshima Art Prize. In 2009, her first feature film, Women without Men, was awarded the Silver Lion for Best Direction at the 66th Venice Film Festival. In 2014, the World Economic Forum in Davos awarded Neshat the Crystal Award in recognition of artists who have used their work to improve the state of the world.