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Museum: Background Information


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
Shirin Neshat was born and raised in Iran, but was sent to the United States at the age of 17 to study art. When she was 22 years old, in 1979, the Islamic Revolution overtook Iran. She did not return for 11 years. During that time Iran went through major cultural and social changes, and by the time Neshat went there in 1990 she barely recognized her country. This experience affected her deeply, as she has said, "I can never call any place home. I will forever be in a state of in-between." Shirin Neshat stands between cultures metaphorically, psychologically, and socially, and she explores this feeling in her films and photographs.

Soliloquy, the most autobiographical of Shirin Neshat's works, examines self-identity. By placing the viewer between two screens that face each other, the artist shows how a person can feel divided between two worlds. One screen depicts a veiled Neshat roaming through an anonymous modern cityscape (filmed in Albany, New York). On the other, she is similarly dressed but traverses a traditional Eastern cityscape (Mardin, Turkey). She made this work shortly after the deaths of her father and cousin in Iran. It is marked by a sense of loss: mourning for family, for the pre-Revolutionary Iran of her childhood, and for her own sense of place, which she lost when her father sent her to study in the United States.

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Type: Commentary, online content
Source: Shirin Neshat, Soliloquy (1999), from the website Global Positioning: Exploring Contemporary World Art, 2003.
Rights: Copyright 2003 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009