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Shirin Neshat: A Simple Title For A Complex Book

Visual artist Shirin Neshat was born in Iran in 1957. She left at age 17 to study in the United States, but her art is deeply influenced by her Iranian heritage. And her eponymous new book is anything but simplistic; Shirin Neshat chronicles the artist's exploration of complex themes such as exile and the role of gender within Islam.

"I think for a young art student," she said in an interview, "this book will be a great testimony of an artist who really is not listening to the art systems but creating her own methodology of how to proceed."

Neshat uses various visual mediums to create artwork that, at its core, represents the resilient and rebellious spirit of women. In her portfolio, that spirit is translated in different ways — whether a photo of herself veiled in black, staring defiantly at the camera — or a video installation in which two Iranian singers, one male and one female, have a vocal duel on opposing screens.

Most recently, Neshat has embraced cinema as a way to reach out to popular culture — a public that might not go to see her work in a gallery or museum. Her directorial debut, Women Without Men, retains the characteristic of her still photography: It shows Iranian women as strong despite oppression.

Refusing to limit herself to a particular medium, Neshat has mastered photography, video and, most recently, filmmaking to tackle the issue of gender inequality in the Islamic world, and the identity struggle that results from exile.

She says she represents a "hybrid generation" that exists on the border between East and West. "I'm not talking to Iranians and Westerners exclusively," she adds, "I'm talking to both of them and telling a story of all of them."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Shereen Meraji