Guest curated by Dina Nasser Khadivi and featuring a major new commission, produced following Shirin Neshat’s time in Azerbaijan, alongside two earlier works – the seminal video installations Soliloquy (1999) and Passage (2001) – this exhibition marks the opening of YARAT Contemporary Art Space in Baku.
Also on view will be an exhibition of works from YARAT’s permanent collection, which has grown over the past three years and includes artists from the Caucasus, Central Asia and neighbouring countries, as well as work by international artists whose creative practice resonates with the culture of Azerbaijan.
Neshat’s work studies the complexities of cultural identity, gender and power in the context of Persian tradition and contemporary concepts of individuality. In her most recent photographic work, Neshat views the portrait as a prism to reveal the cultural dynamics and personal histories of her subjects, exploring the narratives that can be ‘read’ in an individual.
In her new commission The Home of My Eyes (2015) the artist builds on her growing interest in portraiture. During time spent in Azerbaijan in 2014 and in preparation for the piece, Neshat photographed 55 individuals from communities across the country, ranging from two to 80 years old. While taking these photographs, Neshat asked participants a series of questions regarding their cultural identity and their concept of home. The responses are written in calligraphy which overlays each portrait, with the assembled images now making up a monumental installation which masks two walls of the 11 metre-high gallery within YARAT Contemporary Art Space.
Neshat explains: “I consider the new series of images a portrait of a country that has for so long been a crossroads for many different ethnicities, religions, and languages. This series combines 55 portraits of men and women from different generations to create a tapestry of human faces which pays tribute to the rich cultural history of Azerbaijan and its diversity.”
YARAT Contemporary Art Space is the first permanent space for YARAT, the not-for-profit organisation which has commissioned over 80 projects since it was created in 2011. The 2,000m² centre, converted from a Soviet-era naval building, overlooks the Caspian Sea and is a dedicated hub for contemporary art and art education in the region.
Shirin Neshat: The Home of My Eyes, 23 March – 23 June 2015, YARAT Contemporary Art Space, Sabail District, Baku, Azerbaijan, AZ 1000
Further information can be found at www.yarat.az.
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1. Shirin Neshat, detail, from The Home of My Eyes series (2015). Copyright of Shirin Neshat. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.