Iranian artist Shirin Neshat has long been caught between two cultures. She came to the U.S. as a 17-year-old student in 1975, and her acclaimed photographs, videos, and films, which address politics, the oppression of Muslim women, and cultural identity in ways that are both lyrical and disturbing, have led to a contentious relationship with her homeland.
In her latest film, Neshat focuses on her adopted country. Land of Dreams will debut in October as part of “Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again,” the first major West Coast survey of her work, at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.
The film’s protagonist, a young Iranian woman, interviews working-class and poor people of various colors, collecting their dreams for processing at an Iranian colony in the U.S. She begins to hide and manipulate these dreams, “breaking the rules of Iranian society by becoming emotionally invested in her subjects,” the artist explains. The story, Neshat says, is “an allegorical way” of focusing on racism and poverty in the U.S., and she adds that while it’s important to see works that question Iranian tyranny, in this film, “you end up in America.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Fall issue under the headline “Women Changing the Art World” Subscribe to the magazine.