Shirin Neshat (born 1957) is an Iranian visual artist who lives in New York. She is known primarily for her work in film, video and photography.
Her work refers to the social, cultural and religious codes of Muslim societies and the complexity of certain oppositions, such as man and woman. Neshat often emphasizes this theme with the technique of showing two or more coordinated films concurrently, creating stark visual contrasts through such motifs as light and dark, black and white, male and female. Neshat has also made more traditional narrative short films, such as her recent work, Zarin.
As a photographer and video-artist, Shirin Neshat was recognized for her brilliant portraits of women entirely overlaid by Persian calligraphy (notably through the Women of Allah series). She also directed several videos, among them Anchorage (1996) and, projected on two opposing walls: Shadow under the Web (1997), Turbulent (1998), Rapture (1999) and Soliloquy (1999). Neshat’s recognition became more international in 1999, when she won the International Award of the XLVIII Biennial of Venice with Turbulent and Rapture, which met with critical and public success after its worldwide avant-première at the Art Institute of Chicago in May 1999. With Rapture, Neshat tried for the first time to make pure photography with the intent of creating an aesthetic, poetic, and emotional shock.
Shirin Neshat has become one of the most well known Persian artist within the Western artistic world. While she lives in New York City, she addresses a global audience. Her earlier work was symbolic of her personal grief, anxiety and the pain of separation from her home country. It took a neutral position on Islam. As time progressed and the Islamic regime of Iran became more intrusive and oppressive, Neshat’s artwork became more boldly political and subversively critical against it. She seeks to, according an article in Time, “untangle the ideology of Islam through her art.” Her current cinematic work continues to express the poetic, philosophical, and metaphorical as well as complex levels of intellectual abstraction.
In 2009 Neshat won the Silver Lion for best director at the 66th Venice Film Festival for her directional debut “Women without Men”, based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel of the same name. She said about the movie: ”This has been a labour of love for six years.(…) This film speaks to the world and to my country.” The film examines the 1953 British- and American-backed coup, which supplanted Iran’s democratically elected government with a monarchy.