Shirin Neshat: Turbulent. Soliloquy.

05.08.00 – 23.09.00

For her Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition, Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat presented Turbulent. Soliloquy. – a video installation the title of which came from the two video works that composed it.  Born in Qazin, Iran, Neshat left for America when she was seventeen to continue her studies. She was not able to return to her home country until sixteen years later due to the Iranian Revolution. Consequently, her work is ‘marked by a profound reflection on her own dislocation, living between two cultures, and meditations on universal themes of gender, sexuality, and cultural identity’. [Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition guide, 2000]

The lower gallery featured Turbulent (1998), winner of the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and the first in a series of three video installations. In the work, the screen is divided into two panels: a male performer is located on one side, and a woman on the other. The man begins to sing in front of an audience comprised of only men; as he finishes his song, the audience greets him with applause. Right afterwards, the woman on the other side of the screen performs a complex vocal piece with no lyrics to an empty auditorium; and at the end of her performance, silence prevails. As was written in the exhibition guide at the time, ‘it is a critique on Muslim laws which prohibit women from singing in public, and to gender injustices between men and women in Iranian culture.’ [Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition guide]

Soliloquy (1999) was Neshat’s first colour film. Once again, the work portrayed parallel projections, this time at life-size and inside a dark room in the upper gallery. The same woman from the other video appears, but this time the viewer follows her through the juxtaposition of images from her journey through an ancient city in West Asia and the modern landscape of an American city. It can be seen as a semi-autobiographical work of the artist’s own life experiences.

In both works, Neshat reveals her interest in poetics and use of metaphors. She encourages more thoughtful and active participation from the public; as explained by her: ‘one must read between the lines to catch the full effect’. [Fruitmarket Gallery exhibition guide, 2000]

Marieta Guzman – Fruitmarket Archive Intern, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2022


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