She received some of the most prestigious international awards and recognitions (Gold Lion, Venice Biennale, 1999; Grand Prix, Kwangju Biennale, 2000; Infinity Award for Visual Art, International Center for Photography, New York, 2002; Silver Lion, Venice Film Festival, 2009; Cristal Award, World Economic Forum 2014; Praemium Imperiale Award, Tokyo, 2017) and several important retrospectives have been organized to celebrate her artistic career (Shirin Neshat. Facing History, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, 2015; Shirin Neshat. The Home of My Eyes, Yarat Art Center, Baku, 2015; Shirin Neshat. I Will Greet the Sun Again, The Broad, Los Angeles, 2019).
However, I think that the most beautiful prize is the one that Shirin Neshat has been giving to us, for several years, with her artistic practice with which she makes us reflect on very important topics by speaking directly to our hearts. Women Without Men, awarded among the numerous awards, with a silver lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2009, is an absolute masterpiece. The movie tells the story of some women of different social backgrounds who try to survive their destinies determined by men (fathers, husbands, and brothers) in a country fighting for freedom (the story is set in 1953, the year of the coup that brings the Shah to power and deposes Mohammad Mossadeq, democratically elected.)
A movie dedicated by the artist to the memory of all those who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom in Iran from the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to the green movement of 2009. Shirin Neshat worked at Women Without Men from 2004 to 2009 and during this time five short films dedicated to the protagonists were produced.
Mahdokht (2004) whose existence is divided between the idea of becoming a mother and the fear of losing virginity. A mad and tormented character who in the book by Shahrnusk Parsipur, on which the film Women Without Men is based, commits suicide by transforming herself into a fruit tree whose seeds are scattered all over the world. In Women Without Men she opens the movie by launching herself from the terrace into the void accompanied by the words "I thought that the only way to get rid of pain is to get rid of the world."
Zarin (2005) has been working as a prostitute since she was a child and she is also a tortured soul in a society where she feels completely helpless. Believing that her life is a kind of punishment by God, she runs away in a Hamman and washes herself vigorously until she bleeds, thus trying to erase her past and her alleged sins. Thus letting her redemption pass through his madness.
Munis (2008) has a passionate political conscience with which she follows the events of her country, as we said shocked by a coup. Unfortunately, however, she is unable to put this passion into practice as her brother keeps her segregated at home, not allowing her to take part in the parades on the streets and forcing her to wait for the husband he has chosen for her.
Faezeh (2008) faithful to religious dictates and eager to get married and have a family goes mad after a rape, and therefore the following dishonor takes her away the courage to go home.
Farokh Legha (2008) is a wealthy middle-aged woman who has the courage to break the chains of a marriage in crisis and buy a garden (always central to Persian culture where it is synonymous with paradise, freedom) where to start a new life.
While expressly referring to the Iranian world, Shirin Neshat's work expresses universal concepts such as self-determination, the search for freedom, the expression of one's identity. Our globalized world is by no means a free world and the struggle of Women Without Men is the struggle we practice every day and expresses humanity's greatest desire: freedom of, freedom from.
These videos and the movie have been shown all over the world and as often happens, fortunately, for great masterpieces these cannot disappear as soon as the lights go out on their being a novelty. We do not need a disposable culture but solid pillars that help us to rise upwards, to improve ourselves day after day, to dream and create a different world. And so for the first time after 2008 when the work was presented in the exhibition with the same name, the Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum shows up to 9 August 2020 the 5 parts of Women Without Men in their entirety. An appointment not to be missed.