Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat

The power behind the veil

"Nothing is ever beautiful without some disturbance or violence. That is why the melancholy of my works is so familiar to the people." Interview with the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat.

In many middle eastern cultures men are totally restrained from any expression of emotion, says Iranian artist Shirin Neshat (b. 1957) in this interview. "All my photographs are about controlled emotions. They are always a juxtaposition of the dark side of life and the good side of life. Of light and darkness. Pain and joy. Violence and mysticicism. The personal versus the social political."

"Being Iranian, we never had the luxury to relief our minds from the oppression of violence and injustice. The shadow of religion imposes brutality, atrocities, torture and prison. It is a part of our everyday reality."

Neshat is particularly focused on the role of women in society. "When I think about war, I don't see many women in the picture." Still, contrary to the common perception from the Western world, Neshat regards muslim women as extremely strong, vocal, fighters. "Because of the veil, they are considered very passive and submissive. It's the excact opposite. During the Arab revoloution, you saw a lot of beuatiful women on the street fighting."

Neshat goes on reflecting about the female body, which is "so problematic in the Islamic society. By studying female bodies in others societies, you understand the ideology, the political structure of the country. For me it has always been interesting why women have to conceal their bodies because men cannot control their sexuality. The veil creates a war between what is private and what is public. But also how expressive the body can be, when it is so controlled and limited. Just seeing the eyes or the hands under the jilbaab can be so powerful and communicating. The women behind the veil they become so erotic and seductive, that no woman in a bikini would have the same power. The more a government or a public try to control womens sexuality, the more empowered they become. And women are very conscious about the power they have over the men. It really blows me away how in certain Islamic cultures, sex is everywhere, despite the fact, that everything in this society is so controlled, that it is disappearing."

About her own works, Neshat states: "Everything begins with women obeying to the rules and the norms, only to break them, becoming very rebellious. Fighting the system or the government. Still I believe, that women can reach the people in ways, that men cannot. It's because of their emotions, nothing else."

Shirin Neshat was interviewed by Evelyn Schels.

Camera: Evelyn Schels

Edit: Evelyn Schels

Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner, Louisiana 2014

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

Supported by:
Nordea-fonden

  • Salman Rushdie

    A line had to be defended

    "It wasn't only about me. It was a moment, when a line had to be held when you could not concede the fight", says the author of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rusdie, in this outtake from a longer interview about his life and work.

  • Darren Almond

    The landscape of the night

    The landscape of the night is like a Jackson Pollock painting - you know it's a Pollock straight away. You can read every mark within miliseconds, you feel the void, there is this calmness, that comes upon you. Interview with British artist Darren Almond about his series of full moon pictures.

  • Daniel Richter

    On Emil Nolde

    Emil Nolde was a Nazi - and so what, asks contemporary German artist Daniel Richter. "It's a moralistic debate. A debate, that mirrors the moralism and bigottery of a generation that seems to think, that the world is a moral playground."

  • Ian McEwan

    Reading from 'Sweet Tooth'

    During the Cold War CIA and MI6 funded cultural fronts. To promote the open societies agents had to operate in deep secret, an absurdity that drew Ian McEwan to write the spy novel ’Sweet Tooth’, which he reads from here.

  • Jørgen Leth

    Andy Warhol eating a hamburger

    Let acclaimed film director Jørgen Leth take you through the iconic scene with Andy Warhol eating a hamburger from his film, 66 Scenes from America.

  • Thomas Demand

    A world of models

    We realize how the world looks through models, says German artist Thomas Demand in this interview. And we live with models all the time - in science, media, even the weather-forecast is a model. Without models, we would go mad within seconds.

  • Shirin Neshat

    The power behind the veil

    "Nothing is ever beautiful without some disturbance or violence. That is why the melancholy of my works is so familiar to the people." Interview with the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat.

  • Bill Viola

    The tone of being

    Aside from a magical visual side, Bill Violas videos are always accompanied by marvelous sound. In this interview Viola talks about the importance of sound in his work and how he is guided by a kind of 'undersound'.

  • John Giorno

    Poets are mirrors of the mind

    Meet one of the great originators of performance poetry, John Giorno, as he looks back at his first meetings with poetry, his great influences, the importance of performing without a book, and where poetry is headed in the future.

  • Sarah Sze

    The meaning between things

    ”A sculpture is constantly growing and dying at the same time. It is a parallel process of construction and deconstruction.” Meet contemporary artist Sarah Sze in her New York studio.

  • Agnes Obel

    Diving into memory

    "Music is a sphere outside that of language. It's a different way of being present", says Danish singer-song-writer Agnes Obel. "That's why it is so beautiful to enter."

  • Chimamanda Adichie

    beauty does not solve any problem

    I am drawn to the beauty of sentences, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie confesses in this interview. Nevertheless it is important to keep a distance to your characters.