Last Thursday, Iranian-born artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat delivered the keynote lecture for Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) deFINE ART 2013, a series of lectures and events across SCAD’s Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Savannah campuses. Neshat catapulted into art world fame with her video installation Rapture, 1999. Since then, she has continued to make videos that serve as powerful meditations on the status of women in Muslim countries as well as a feature-length film, Women Without Men, 2009, for which she won the 2009 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion for best directing.
Neshat has also built up a body of photographic works that are both captivating and unnerving. Her stark black and white photography features men and women of Muslim societies, their faces and bodies inscribed with Persian calligraphy from Neshat’s hand. In her series Women of Allah, 1994, women in traditional Muslim dress—their hair and bodies covered in black robes—pose with guns, their faces, hands, and feet inscribed with the dramatic black lines of calligraphy. The images are shocking ruminations on violence in the Middle East yet, in light of her oeuvre, must be taken as complicated portrayals of Muslim women as strong and courageous.
The same can be said of Neshat herself. The disarmingly petite and fine-boned artist exudes a stubborn, uncompromising intelligence. At the SCAD deFINE ART lecture, she took attendees through a survey of her career, couching advice for young artists within tales of her own experience.
The talk is included below. As a warning to listeners, the first few minutes are distorted by a buzzing sound coming from the auditorium speakers. The talk was preceded by screenings of two videos, Turbulent, 1998, and Rapture, 1999.
Audio:Click the player above to listen to Shirin Neshat’s lecture, or download the MP3.