Shirin Neshat, My Beloved (1995)
Shirin Neshat explores the ambiguity of reality in countries like Iran, where politics and religion are connected inseparably and where destruction and violence merge with devotion of the ideal.
In 1990, the personal and professional live of Neschat turns completely around. That year she returns to Iran for the first time in 14 years. She moved to Los Angeles in 1974 to study at the art academy. When the Islamic Revolution broke out in Iran in 1978, Neshat could not return to the country in which she was born. When she returned eventually, she found a country completely different from the one that she had left. A country where religion had a heavy impact and where women were hiding underneath a chador (a. veil that covers the entire body). The distance between the city where she lives (Los Angeles) and Iran is a defining theme in Neshat’s work. Because she stayed in the United States for such a long time, she now looks at Iran with ‘the typical curiosity of a foreigner’, even though she has a personal relation with this country.
Neshat emerged her experiences of returning to Iran in her series of photo’s Women of Allah (1993-1997) of which My Beloved is a part. The artwork is meant to try to get a grip on the changes and the situation in the country instead of a purely political-feministic statement.
For this series of photo’s, Neshat personated women who fought for the Islamic Revolution. Neshat was fascinated by these women who were willing to surrender their freedom and material live for religion. The photos show the artist armed and dressed in a chapter
On the body parts which are not covered, she wrote poetry lines of feminist writers .
The paradox image of women who on the one hand are submissive to the Islamic law and on the other hand fight together with men in the war while armed and dressed in a chador, is a doubtful image of emancipated women and feminism for the West.
The series of photos Women of Allah shows poetic and ambiguous images that are regarded as a feminist conviction as well as promotion of radical ideas. In reality they are much subtler than those kind of statements.
Shirin Neshat, 1957, Qazvin/Iran
My Beloved, 1995
Black and white photo with text
110 x 140cm
purchase 1997, Museum De Paviljoens
1 The text on this photo of Shirin Neshat is a fragment from a poem by the Iranian poet Fourugh Farokhzad: "… You give me life, but I die in you”