Shirin Neshat – Women without Men

Athens Conservatoire

The new monumental circle of work of Shirin Neshat, titled Women without Men, was created between 2004-2008 and is constituted from 5 videos-sound installations. Shirin Neshat’s new series of works is based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel, which is banned in Iran since 1989. The five video installations (Mahdokht, Zarin, Munis, Faezeh and Farokh Legha) tell the stories of the five female characters in the novel. The total duration of the films is c. 1 hour 15 minutes. The novel is set in 1953, the year when the democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, vainly tried to avert a coup d’état mounted by American and British forces, whose task it was to reinstate the Shah as an absolute ruler in order to avoid the nationalisation of the country’s oil resources.

In her films, Shirin Neshat retains the magic realism of the novel and allows magic and the supernatural to interact with the realistic story. On the other hand, she deals freely with the novel’s action as she focuses on mood and tone in her work rather than seeking to create a straightforward film version of the novel. It is the five main female characters – Mahdokht, Zarin, Munis, Faezeh and Farokh Legha – that Shirin Neshat portrays in a gripping drama about power and powerlessness. The women confront the lives they have lived hitherto in different ways and seek to escape from the city to a garden, where they for a time find a refuge. For these women, life is a struggle for freedom and survival in a society that lays down strict rules regarding religion, sex and social behaviour. For Shirin Neshat, the coincidence in time between the Iranian people’s attempt to achieve democracy and independence and the women’s fight for survival – through madness, flight, active opposition or conformity – has been the driving force in the creation of her new, fascinating and unforgettable work, Women without men. The monumental series Women without Men will be completed by a feature film screening in film theatres.

Curated by Anna Kafetsi