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"Women without men" in the garden of Eden

22 March 2009 / 20:03:11  GRReporter
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For the first time in Greece, the Athens National Contemporary Art Museum presents the new project of the Irish visual artist Shirin Neshat, which is named “Women without men.” The project is inspired by the 1989 same name novel of the Irish author Sharnush Parsipur, which is forbidden for distribution in Iran. Shirin Nashat needed four years, in order to finalize the project “Women without men,” which is made of five video installations and the ambition to be transformed into a full-length film. Through the five little films, Neshat untwines the stories of five women and their fight for freedom and survival.

The action in the novel, on which the video installations are based, takes place in 1953. Back then, the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohmdad Mosadeg fruitlessly tried to prevent the American and British forces plan to give full power in the hands of the shah, in order to avoid nationalizing the petrol deposits of the country. In her five films, Shirin Neshat keeps the magic of the novel and allows the supernatural to intertwine with the real story.

The five women characters – Madoct, Zarin, Munis, Faezeh, and Farox Legha tell one story about the people, who have power and the ones who are powerless. The women try to cope with their own lives but when they cannot do it anymore, they run away from the city to a garden, where they find peace for their souls.

The garden is a motif with great significance for the world of Islam. Islam and Iran are famous for the stories of their gardens, which depict the absolute contrast of the endless dessert and reflect the idea of Eden. The other idea, which Neshat plays with is the woman’s transformation into a tree, which is also a widely spread metaphor in the Iranian mythology – it explains the feeling of the human that he has roots in his community. The transformation of the woman into a tree allows her to find a new community – women community, which will give her the feeling of belonging without her being forced to accept a passive role.

43 year old Shirin Nashat was born and raised in Iran and when she turns 17, she leaves for New York, where she graduates with a degree in exquisite arts. When the Islam revolution started in her country, Neshat could not return for 11 years. She fights with her own feeling of eradication by trying to untwine the ideology of Islam through her art.

“Just like all Shirin Neshat’s projects, “Women without men” was done through the close cooperation with her Iranian friends. Every refugee or emigrant has his own feeling of loss and his memories have their own lives,” reasons the curator Brita Schmits. Those who have left their home country and culture, carry a very personal view of the country, in which they live at the moment, which makes their point of view very specific.

Shirin Neshat develops a new language, which talks about her home country but not in an ethnographic way. It can be understood throughout the whole world, because it deals with deeply human topics and passes on universal values.

The exhibition “Women without men” will be open in the National Contemporary Art Museum in Athens from March 18th to May 31st.



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