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Shirin Neshat Exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art

The first exhibition in Ireland of the work of the internationally-acclaimed Iranian-born film and photographic artist, Shirin Neshat, opens to the public in the New Galleries at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 5 September 2001. Shirin Neshat comprises 18 works – two being shown in Europe for the first time – inspired by the radical transformation which the artist observed in her homeland during a series of visits in the 1990s following an absence of 16 years. Neshat describes her work as “a visual discourse on the subjects of feminism and contemporary Islam”. Beautiful and timeless, it crosses the boundaries between Western and Islamic society and challenges many of the preconceived ideas held in both cultures.

The exhibition includes three of Neshat’s characteristically compelling films, based on the rigid, ritualistic separation of Iran’s male and female worlds. In ‘Turbulent’, 1998, which won the prestigious Golden Lion Prize at the 1999 Venice Biennale, projected images of two singers – a man and a woman – face each other across a darkened room. The man performs for an audience of other men and is greeted with applause; the woman, her back to the camera, faces an empty auditorium. Despite her apparently disadvantageous position, the work is constructed so that the woman appears to mesmerise her male counterpart.

The other film installations, ‘Passage’ and ‘Pulse’, were both completed this year and are receiving their first European showing. ‘Passage’, a collaboration with the famous American Minimalist composer, Philip Glass, was commissioned for the series Philip on Film, which premiered at the Lincoln Center, New York, this summer. A strangely apocalyptic meditation on life and death, its deceptively simple narrative opens with a glorious view of a calm sea. A phalanx of black-clad men appear carrying a corpse wrapped in white cloth on their shoulders. They approach a group of veiled women, who are digging a grave with their bare hands while a little girl plays innocently nearby. As the body is placed on the earth a circle of fire begins encircling both men and women, leaving only the little girl outside. Photographs from other major film works, including ‘Rapture’, 1999, ‘Soliloquy’, 1999, and ‘Fervor’, 2000, are also being shown.

Born in Iran in 1957, Shirin Neshat moved to the United States in 1974, where she studied at the University of California in Berkeley. She first came to international attention in the early 1990s. This followed her first visit to Iran in 16 years, where she found that “society had changed, ideologically, beyond recognition leaving a collective void”. In 1993 Neshat exhibited the first in a series of arresting black and white photographs featuring herself, sometimes with other women, wearing a chador, or body-length veil. This traditional Islamic garment, which she saw as a metaphor for women’s status in Iran, reveals only the face, hands and feet, on which in her photoworks Neshat inscribed the poetry of Iranian feminists.

Over the last few years Neshat has turned increasingly to film, which, unlike her earlier work, is frequently conceived on an epic scale. She has gained growing international recognition for her work in both media, with solo exhibitions at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York; the Kunsthalle, Vienna, and the Serpentine Gallery, London, and in a number of other American and European cities. She lives and works in New York and continues to make regular visits to Iran.

The exhibition is presented in association with Panasonic Ireland. A catalogue published by Charta, with a text by Farzaneh Milani, is available (price £16.00, €20.31).
Shirin Neshat continues until 16 December 2001.

Admission is free.

Opening hours: Tue – Sat 10.00am – 5.30pm
Sun, Bank Holidays 12 noon – 5.30pm


For further information and colour and black and white images please contact Philomena Byrne or Monica Cullinane at Tel : +353 1 612 9900,
Fax : +353 1 612 9999, email: [email protected]

13 August 2001