Shirin Neshat, Untitled, 2001, From the series Passage. Gelatin silver print. 18 3/4 × 22 1/4 inches (47.6 × 56.5 cm). Gift of Barbara Lee, The Barbara Lee Collection of Art by Women.
An acclaimed artist working primarily in the media of photography, film, and video, Shirin Neshat creates art that contends primarily with the experiences and struggles of Iranian women through the lens of religion, femininity, and modernity. Neshat’s film and photographs are concerned with the social relationships between women and men in Muslim societies and prompt important questions on representations of Muslim women in contemporary art. The photograph Untitled is from a series made the same year titled Passage, depicting scenes from Neshat’s single-channel video Passage from 2001. With an accompanying score by the composer Philip Glass (who originally commissioned Passage), the video was originally shot on 35mm film in the Moroccan seaside city Essaouira, and in the Moroccan desert at a halfway point between Marrakesh and Casablanca. The video is composed in three parts: the first follows a group of men carrying a body prepared for burial; the second, a group of women preparing a place for burial by digging into the ground with their hands; and the third, a young girl playing alone as the burial concludes with a funeral pyre. This photograph draws from the second part of the film, showing the women in a tight circle on their hands and knees, conflating the forms of their huddled bodies with the dry, rocky landscape. Likewise, their tightly gathered bodies resemble the form of the funeral pyre, layering nuanced meaning through these visual metaphors on the role of gender, performance, and ritual.