Anna McNay

Interview with Shirin Neshat at Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan


Interview: Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat: The
Home of My Eyes 

Yarat Contemporary Art Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan 

23 March – 23 June 2015

Shirin Neshat, who was born in Iran in 1957, became internationally
recognised in 1999 when her film Turbulent (1998) won the international prize
at the Venice Biennale. The two-channel black-and-white film made a stark
comment on the inequality of gender roles and the invisibility of women in
Middle Eastern culture, using the medium of ancient Persian music and poetry.
Poetry also often features in her still photographic works, inscribed on the
portraits in beautiful calligraphy.

For the opening of the Yarat Contemporary
Art Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan, Neshat has produced a new body of work, The
Home of My Eyes, comprising 55 monochromatic portraits of local Azeri people,
each overlaid with a mixture of Persian poetry and the subject’s own answers to
four key questions:

• What does home mean to you?

• If you had to define an image of Azerbaijan, what would it be?

• What makes you most proud of being Azeri?

• What is your favourite celebration?

The works are hung on the two facing walls of the imposing 11-metre-high
gallery in a converted Soviet-era naval building. Neshat describes the
commission as a “portrait of the country” – a country that has only been in
existence since 1991, when it gained independence from the Soviet Union, and borders
on to her own native homeland, to which she has not returned since 1996.

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