NEW YORK - In 2012 Shirin Neshat and long-time collaborator Larry Barns travelled to Egypt for a week to create artwork in aid of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s One-to-One initiative, in which contemporary artists create work in the service of advancing human rights.
I called Shirin today and caught her, just before she left New York City on one of her many travels, to ask what was special for her about this project.
Shirin Neshat’s Ahmed, from Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
“The theme of this series,” she said, “became about experience of loss: national loss and personal loss. Egypt has just been through a failed revolution, and seemed to be grieving in its aftermath; and coincidently my long-time collaborator Larry, who came to help me shoot the photographs, had just tragically lost his daughter. So I decided if in the past my work was about controlled emotions; this time I would let the emotions be released. I worked with local people, who in response, recalled and shared a personal experience of loss before the camera. This photographic journey eradicated all our differences, including race, religion, class, and gender; and suddenly that boundary between art and life became totally blurred.”
Shirin Neshat’s Hassan, from Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Copyright Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
If you are anywhere near 455 West 19th Street between January 31 and March 1, 2014, it would be madness to miss the show, which features some exquisite portraits. And even if you are not near, it’s worthwhile considering a trip in to the city to catch it.