Giving a Voice

“Like a wind-up doll one can look out / at the world through glass eyes, / spend years inside a felt box.” Forough Farrokhzad’s (1934-1967) poem Wind-Up Doll explores the feelings of dissociation and emptiness women feel conforming to restrictive societal expectations. Words by the influential Iranian poet continue to inspire creatives today. One such is Qazvin-born, New York-based artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat (b. 1957). She is internationally acclaimed for her expansive body of work that engages with ways the female body is a contested space for sin, shame, violence, repression and rebellion, power and protest. In 1999, she won the Golden Lion Award at the 48th Venice Biennale and her first feature film, Women without Men, won the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the Venice International Film Festival in 2009.

Now Neshat presents The Fury at Fotografiska Stockholm. It is a hard-hitting show focusing on the sexual exploitation and torture of female political prisoners. A double-channel video installation follows the psychological and emotional journey of a young Iranian woman traumatised by her memories of captivity. It’s a fictionalised representation of what numerous women are suffering today. The film is accompanied by a series of black and white photographs of nude figures covered in hand-inscribed calligraphy. The words of Farrokhzad is etched on their skin. Neshat was drawn to the poet’s powerful ability to confront “the issue of the female body both as an object of desire and as an object of violence and shame.”

Neshat presents us with horrific truths. Her artwork draws attention to the fact that these stories of violence are more than just headlines but lived experiences. Bare bodies reveal not only vulnerability but they command us to witness the deep psychological wounds that exist out of sight. Neshat states: “My work is politically charged because of the life that I have lived and because many of my collaborators, most of us, are living in exile. So a lot of the subjects are informed by issues that we face as people.”

Fotografiska Stockholm, Shirin Neshat: The Fury | Until 18 February

Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh

Image Credits:

  1. Flavia, from The Fury series, 2023, © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
  2. Marry, from The Fury series, 2023, © Shirin Neshat.
  3. Daniela, from The Fury series, 2023, © Shirin Neshat.