Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking

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Shirin Neshat
(b. 1957 in Qazvin, Iran, lives and works in New York)

Shirin Neshat. Untitled. 1996

(b. 1957 in Qazvin, Iran, lives and works in New York)
(one of two works shown) RC print and ink, 67 x 48" (170.2 x 121.9 cm). Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York. © Shirin Neshat. Photograph: Larry Barns. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York Audio courtesy of Acoustiguide

FERESHTEH DAFTARI: This untitled photograph, like the one next to it, comes from Shirin Neshat’s Women of Allah series. The writing does not follow the dictates of Islamic calligraphy. It is in the artist’s own plain handwriting. Here, on the fingers, a Persian poet laments the disregard for life.

SHIRIN NESHAT: This is the effort of a woman to speak in the most unspeakable way. (Laughs) She's touching her lip with her fingers, as if she's just about to open her mouth, but nothing comes out, and in fact her words are inscribed on her hands.

In this series, I decided that I would only concentrate on those parts of the female body that are allowed to be exposed. And the hand, which I think is extremely expressive part of a woman's body, the eye, the lip, the feet became very vocal in my work.

In this hand I used the poetry of a very well known poet, called Forough Farrokhzad. She's probably the most significant Iranian woman writer ever. In this poem, "I Feel Sorry for the Garden”, she uses the garden as a metaphor for a woman.

"No one is thinking about the flowers.
No one is thinking about the fish.
No one wants to believe that the garden is dying,
that the garden is slowly forgetting its green moments."

FERESHTEH DAFTARI: The poem, may also be a metaphor for Iran. Farrokhzad’s secular poem is juxtaposed to a religious invocation on the back of the hand.

SHIRIN NESHAT: What is written in the circle in the middle of the hand is (Foreign Phrase). This is expression that I know since childhood. When something frightens you and you're asking for God’s help, it's the expression that you use.

FERESHTEH DAFTARI: To hear Neshat’s feelings about the erotic aspects of her work, press 6231.