The Gun & the Gaze

Shirin Neshat's "Women of Allah" photo series:

There is a palpable energy in Shirin Neshat's photographs, an almost tangible seduction obviating the violence it borders, deeply rooted in the historical culture she would ultimately have to call "home."

Born in Iran in 1957, photographer and installation/film artist Neshat came to the United States as a student in 1974. She remained away from Iran throughout the revolution, until her first visit back in 1990. This trip, and the visits that followed, catalysed her exploration of Westernisation, Islam, gender roles, martyrdom, and censorship against the backdrop of her birth country.

Her stark yet stunning black-and-white photography series "Women of Allah" wherein her models (often herself) are clothed in the iconographic chador, Farsi calligraphy, and weapons won her international acclaim.

Neshat followed this success with a series of installation video and film projects that are often mounted on two screens in enclosed spaces, gripping the audience in visual and aural experience. Less specific to the revolution, these metaphorical, unconventional and performative narratives employ Islamic/Eastern references and other archetypes to explore power dynamics, isolation, societal forces, autobiography, and exile. Throughout her work, Neshat not only redefines the critical boundaries of her art but expands the viewer's capacity to contemplate ideas of universal significance.

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