It Remains on the Surface
"Feminism in the Middle East, particularly Iran, is much stronger than in the West."
“There is this tradition of minimising the value of women and their way of storytelling.” Iranian award-winning visual artist Shirin Neshat here talks about the discrimination of women in the U.S. film industry, and why she finds Hollywood’s use of movements such as #MeToo superficial. Read more …
Remarking on the film industry in the U.S., Neshat feels that roughly 90 per cent has narratives created by men, because they believe that there isn’t an audience for movies with a female perspective: “There is not enough interest, or there is not an opening for stories being told by women about women.” Even at film festivals, the majority of the chosen films are by men: “Occasionally they include a woman just as a token.” Neshat considers herself a feminist, who believes in strong women and has women as the focal point in her movies, and has a hard time understanding this lack of confidence in movies centred on women. Feminism in the Middle East, she argues, is much stronger than in the West.
“There’s a lot of superficiality that comes out on that level in Hollywood.” In what Neshat refers to as the “powerhouse” of Hollywood, people feel they need to make bold statements, which she considers quite shallow, as they concurrently continue to ignore all the other horrible things going on in the world: “They talk about things that just concern them, and I find that sort of hypocritical.” However, she feels that superficiality is the only thing you can expect from that kind of platform, where the media latches onto everything “in a shallow, passing way, and then tomorrow it’s back to the same thing.” Things are never deeply rooted, but remain on the surface.
Shirin Neshat (b.1957) is an Iranian visual artist, known primarily for her work in film, video and photography. Neshat gained international prominence in 1995 with her iconic series of black and white, calligraphy-overlaid photographs ‘Women of Allah’, and broke new ground winning the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale (1999) for her video installation ‘Turbulent’ and the Silver Lion at the International Venice Film Festival (2009) for directing ‘Women Without Men’. Among other works are ‘Soliloquy’ (1999), ‘Possession’ (2009), ‘Illusions & Mirrors’ (2013) and ‘Looking for Oum Kulthum’ (2017). Neshat has won prestigious awards such as the International Award of the XLVIII Venice Biennale (1999), the Grand Prix at the Kwangju Biennale (2000) and Hiroshima Freedom Prize from the Hiroshima City Museum of Art (2005). Solo exhibitions include shows at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City, Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Art Institute of Chicago and Serpentine Gallery in London. She lives and works in New York City.
Shirin Neshat was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at Faurschou Foundation in Copenhagen, Denmark in connection with the exhibition ‘Shirin Neshat, Looking for Oum Kulthum’ in March 2018.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018
Supported by Nordea-fonden