Shirin Neshat: The Home of My Eyes

Museo Correr, Venice, Italy
13 May 2017 - 26 Nov 2017

Shirin Neshat, “Ilgara” (detail), from “The Home of My Eyes” series, 2015, Silver Gelatin Print and Ink, 152.4 x 101.6cm (40 x 60 in), Courtesy Written Art Foundation, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Shirin Neshat, “Ilgara” (detail), from “The Home of My Eyes” series, 2015, Silver Gelatin Print and Ink, 152.4 x 101.6cm (40 x 60 in), Courtesy Written Art Foundation, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

The Home of My Eyes exhibition at the Museo Correr features recent works by Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, including a selection of photographs from The Home of My Eyes series (2015), and her new video Roja (2016). These works represent a shift in Neshat’s practice, as they depart from works that focus primarily on her own Iranian society and instead reflect on other cultures.

Portraying the diverse people of Azerbaijan, Neshat’s The Home of My Eyes series comprises 55 photographic portraits inscribed with ink. The artist conceived of the series as “a portrait of a country that for so long has been a crossroads of many different ethnicities, religions, and languages.” Only separated from Iran in the first half of the 19th century, Azerbaijan especially resonated with Neshat, as it shares much of the same history, religion, ethnicity, and culture with her native country.

In the series, Neshat captures the individual character of her subjects in frontal, close-up portraits. While the subjects range in age and ethnicity, Neshat unites them formally by staging them in similar clothing and poses, against a dark background. Their specific hand gestures reference Christian religious paintings, most notably those of El Greco.  The series additionally explores the subjects’ individual voices. During production, Neshat spoke with them about their perspectives on cultural identity and the concept of home. Neshat then composed texts, which are calligraphically inscribed across the portraits, from both the sitters’ responses to the notion of homeland and from poems by Nizami Ganjavi, a 12th-century Iranian poet who lived in what is present-day Azerbaijan.

While in The Home of My Eyes, Neshat examines a culture quite close to her own, in the video Roja, she reflects on her own experience of living in the foreign culture of the United States. Roja, based on Neshat’s personal dreams and memories, traces an Iranian woman’s nostalgia for her homeland. The protagonist is simultaneously pulled towards and pushed away from both her original and adopted homes. Employing a surrealist lens and nonlinear narrative, Roja captures feelings of displacement, blurred lines between reality and fiction, and tensions between the past and present.

Shirin Neshat, born in the provincial capital of Qazvin in 1957, lives in New York. Her early photographic work includes the Women of Allah series (1993-1997), which explores the question of gender in relation to Islamic fundamentalism and militancy. Her more recent photographic series include The Book of Kings (2012) and Our House Is on Fire (2013). Each series could be seen as an allegorical representation of a country and as a group of humans unfolding in history, whether as heroes or as wounded people who survived a collective trauma. The Home of My Eyes (2015) was commissioned by the YARAT Art Center in Baku. In 2009, Neshat directed her first feature-length film, Women Without Men, which received the Silver Lion Award for Best Director during the 66th Venice International Film Festival. She is currently completing on her second feature-length film, Looking for Oum Kulthum (2017).

As a collateral event of the 57th International Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, the Museo Correr will present 26 of Neshat’s portraits from The Home of My Eyes, together with Roja, at the Sala di Quattro Porte on the third floor, within the collection at the Piazza San Marco.