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Shirin Neshat is an Iranian contemporary female artist who is in exile by choice. Born in Qazvin, Iran, in 1957, the artist moved to the United States in 1974 in order to study arts. Due to the Islamic Revolution in 1979, she was prevented from going back to her country. In 1990, after almost 12 years, Neshat visited Iran for the first time after the revolution, which transformed her artistic life into a productive one, full of prizes. The aim of this article is to reflect on the impact of Neshat’s homecoming experience in developing an authentic artistic identity. The emphasis of the paper will be on the artist’s first cinematic film, Turbulent (1998), which will be discussed as a manifestation of the artist’s working through the turbulent encounter with the changes in the motherland after a long separation due to the revolution.
The theorist and philosopher Julia Kristeva is invited to curate an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris as part of a series-Parti Pris (Taking Sides)- and to turn this into a book, The Severed Head: Capital Visions. The organiser, Régis Michel, wants something partisan, that will challenge people to think, and Kristeva delivers in response a collection of severed heads neatly summarising her critique of the whole of western culture! Three figures dominate, providing a key to making sense of the exhibition: Freud, Bataille, and the maternal body. Using these figures, familiar from across the breadth of her work over the last half a century, she produces a witty analysis of western culture’s persistent privileging of disembodied masculine rationality; the head, ironically phallic, ironically and yet necessarily severed; the maternal body continually arousing a “jubilant anxiety” (Kristeva, Severed Head 34), expressed through violence. Points of critique are raised in relation to Kristeva’s normative tendencies-could we not tell a different story about women, for example? The cultural context of the exhibition is also addressed: who are the intended viewers/readers and whose interests are being served here? Ultimately, however, this is a celebration of Kristeva’s tribute to psychic survivors.
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