Press release • January 2020
ARoS takes great pride in being able once again to showcase the monumental film work Women Without Men from 2004-2008. The work was created by the Iranian-American artist Shirin Neshat and is more relevant now than ever before. This is the first time since 2008, when the work was presented at the exhibition of the same name, that the museum shows the five-part Women Without Men in its full-length version. The work was subsequently acquired for the ARoS collection with the generous support of the New Carlsberg Foundation.
About the work
Women Without Men is composed of five video installations: Mahdokht, Zarin, Munis, Faezeh, and Farokh Legha. The total running time is about an hour and a quarter.
The films are based on Iranian Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel from 1989, which also bears the title Women Without Men and is forbidden in Iran. The novel was published in Danish in 2019 and received dazzling reviews. The action takes place in 1953, the year in which Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh tried in vain to stave off a coup d'état orchestrated by US and British forces. The coup aimed to reinstate the Shah as sole ruler in order to prevent close relations between Iran and Russia and the nationalisation of the country's vast oil reserves.
Shahrnush Parsipur portrays five women in her novel – their lives, dreams and hopes – telling a poetic and magical story of love, oppression, sexuality, and freedom in Iran in the 1950s. The common thread that connects all the women is their yearning for freedom from male dominance.
In her film Shirin Neshat further develops the novel’s magical realism and its Persian myths, letting the supernatural and the magic enter into a dialogue with the realistic story. The novel’s five female protagonists – Mahdokht, Zarin, Munis, Faezeh and Farokh Legha – are portrayed by Shirin Neshat in a gripping drama of power and powerlessness, as they wander down tortuous byways to finally arrive at a green and lush garden outside Teheran. Each woman, in her own way, rejects her former life, moving away from the city out into the garden which becomes a temporary safe haven. For these women life is a struggle for freedom and survival in a religious, sexist and socially divisive society.
About Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat was born in Iran in 1957. She completed her art studies in the 1970s and 80s in California. Because of the 1979 Islamic revolution in her native country Shirin Neshat never returned, and today she lives and works in New York.
Shirin Neshat’s international career took off after a visit to her home country where she witnessed the dramatic impact of the theocratic regime, in particular on women’s lives. Her early works were primarily black and white photographs, where she staged herself wearing a chador, often carrying a weapon and with uncovered parts of her body overlaid with henna calligraphy. Later there would be her innovative and large-scale video works with several projections – including the work Turbulent (1998) which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1999.
The key themes in Neshat’s oeuvre address the relationship between man and woman, the individual and society, between power and powerlessness as well as sexuality and the condition of exile. Her work is shaped by the cultures of the Middle East that she grew up with, while being expressed in a universal, eternal and extremely aesthetic figurative language.
Press photos may be downloaded free of charge from Dropbox when citing the name of the photographer.
8 February until 9 August 2020, ARoS Focus gallery, level 5.