In 1979, the famous Iranian revolution took place and the Pahlavi monarch family was overthrown and the replaced by the government of a newly formed Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Interestingly so, the revolution was not violent and a great number of women participated; the feeling of a more egalitarian society was in the air, yet over time the society went backwards and the forced wearing of the hijab was legislated. Life became more bearable for women only in the last fifteen to twenty years, meaning that there was a significant disruption in the process of social emancipation. Such a state of being reflected on women artists who reasonably started exploring their identity and their place in society.
One of the most prolific Iranian women artists and a figure of an international acclaim is certainly Shirin Neshat, who was asked by a non-governmental organization The Center for Human Rights in Iran to curate a show dedicated to her female counterparts in New York City. Under the title A Bridge Between You and Everything: An Exhibition of Iranian Women Artists tends to explore issues of identity, repression, storytelling, and memory.
Throughout the years, Shirin Neshat has been fiercely producing socially and politically engaged works with an emphasis on women's questions. To be more precise, her work is interwoven with issues of displacement and nostalgia explored via the perspective of well-articulated gender politics.
This exhibition is rooted in Neshat’s agenda of mapping and presenting different artistic practices made by women regardless of the media (for instance, her last film is focused on the work and life of a famous Egyptian singer Oum Kulthum). On the invitation of The Center for Human Rights, Neshat decided to show how personal experiences of being a woman in a traditionally confined society have affected the art made by some of the most inspiring Iranian women artists. Shirin Neshat stated:
As an Iranian woman artist whose personal life circumstances have defined her art, I hope to explore how artistic expressions in this exhibition are shaped by each of the artist’s emotional, psychological, and political experiences and points of view; as well as their resolved or unresolved relationships to both native and host countries including their political and legal status as immigrants or refugees.
The upcoming exhibition will encompass paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and videos made by established and emerging artists active on the scene in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Neshat selected the works by artists living in Iran and the diaspora alike, in order to provide at least a provisional insight of Iranian women production and the multitude of their aesthetic and conceptual approaches. The list includes Hadieh Shafie, Sepideh Salehi, Laleh Khorramian, Ala Dehghan, Afruz Amighi, Afsoon, Bahar Sabzevari, Hoda Rostami, Nazanin Noroozi, Parastou Forouhar, Raha Raissnia, Roya Farassat, Shahrzad Changalvaee, Shiva Ahmadi, and Soudeh Davoud.
This particular survey is part of The Center’s agenda of promoting gender equality in the context of basic human rights and freedoms in Iran, as well as cultural tolerance and understanding.
On 6 November 2019, one day before the public opening, a private session with the artist/curator will happen alongside the auction of works in the show (the funds raised from the sale are intended for the Center's Arts & Culture and Disability Rights programs).
A Bridge Between You and Everything: An Exhibition of Iranian Women Artists will be on display at the High Line Nine in Chelsea, New York from 7 November until 24 November 2019.
Featured image: Sepideh Salehi - Walkman from School series, Ink, pencil, collage on paper, 10 x 7 inches, no frame, 2016. Image courtesy of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
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