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Identity: In Between


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
"Whatever the reason, however, those of us living in the state of the "in between" have certain advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of being exposed to a new culture and in my case the freedom that comes with living in the U.S.A. The disadvantages of course being that you will never experience again being in a 'center' or quite at 'home' anywhere."
--Shirin Neshat, 2000

"Most people are principally aware of one culture, one setting, one home; exiles are aware of at least two, and this plurality of vision gives rise to an awareness of simultaneous dimensions."
--Edward Said, excerpt from Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, 2000

Shirin Neshat's Soliloquy (1999) explores self-identity and is shown with the viewer placed in between two screens that face each other. One screen reveals a veiled Neshat wandering through a Western cityscape, while the other shows her in similar clothing making her way through a traditional Eastern cityscape. The architecture highlights the differences between the two worlds. Through acceptance and rejection, the artist examines ideas of exile and home, of modern and traditional, and of the individual and the communal.

One advantage of Neshat's "in between" state is her ability to critique the cultures of Iran and the United States from the perspectives of "outside looking in" and "inside looking out." The results are two points of view that run parallel to each other: on the one hand Western, exile, and modern, and on the other Eastern, traditional, and home. Her unique vantage point allows us to place ourselves at a position of our own choosing, viewing Neshat's work not from a place that she has defined, but from one we define for ourselves.

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Type: Commentary, online content
Source: Identity: In Between, from the website Global Positioning: Exploring Contemporary World Art, 2003.
Rights: Copyright 2003 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009