Goodman Gallery is pleased to present Shirin Neshat, the artist's first solo exhibition in Cape Town, which brings together a video installation Sarah, a photographic still from Roja and 'Offerings', a series of recent photographic-based works, which through different means incorporate Neshat's interest in the interior lives of women.
Sarah and Roja are part of a trilogy of video installations titled Dreamers, which explore the world of women's dreams. In many ways, the characters and their dreamy narratives are projections of the artist in which she reflects on some of her own personal nightmares.
Conceptually each of the three video installations revolves around a single female protagonist whose emotional and psychological narratives remain on the border of dream and reality; madness and sanity; and consciousness and subconsciousness as they each face their own distinct inner anxieties. The visual approach to the creation of this trilogy is consistent, with each video being shot in black and white, and the artist using simple camera devices to produce surrealistic and dreamy visual effects.
'I have been haunted by the power of dreams for years' says Neshat, 'I am fascinated by how in a state of dream, the boundaries in between madness and sanity, reality and fiction, conscious and subconscious are blurred and broken'. Dreamers is based on aspects of the artist's own dreams. Roja's character and dilemma in many ways resembles hers: the fear of the 'stranger' and the 'strange land,' and desire for a reunion with 'home' with 'mother,' with the 'motherland' that seems welcoming at first but becomes terrifying and demonic in the end. Themes of 'flight' and 'levitation', implying freedom and ecstasy, is a significant aspect of the Roja video that is a recurring theme in Neshat's work.///
The single-channel film Sarah is, according to Neshat, 'about the unfolding journey of a woman as she recollects and breathes annihilation, as she faces residues of destruction, violence, genocide, and mortality in a state of dream. Sarah's anxieties and fears at last force her to plunge into imagining her own death.' While not restricted to any particular time or place, the work is intended to reference a collective sense of anxiety and fear, part of the global experience in a world fraught with conflict.
Neshat says: 'In my opinion, rational interpretations of dreams never seem to properly capture their true meanings and significance within the human psyche. So Sarah is an effort to make sense of the more subliminal emotional and psychic universe that lives deep inside of us, but is difficult to explain through words.'
The film is shown alongside still images from Neshat's recent 'Offerings' series. For these works, Neshat employs her trademark use of texts in delicate lines of Persian script across the skin of the people and subjects that she photographed. These images reclaim the compositional aesthetics of the series 'Women of Allah' (1993–1997), one of the most famous bodies of work by Neshat that marks the beginning of her reflection on the complexity of Islamic culture and its traditions in relation to female identity. The poetry written on the hands in this series is taken from the 11th century Persian Poet Omar Khayyam.