To mark the opening of YARAT Contemporary Art Centre
in Baku on 23 March 2015, YARAT announced the exhibition Shirin Neshat: The Home of My Eyes. The exhibitions focus is a major new commission, produced following the artists time in Azerbaijan. The exhibition also includes two of Neshats earlier works, the seminal video installations Soliloquy (1999) and Passage (2001) and is guest curated by Dina Nasser Khadivi.
Also marking the opening is an exhibition from YARATs permanent collection, with work by artists from the Caucasus, Central Asia and neighbouring countries alongside work by international artists whose work has a resonance with Azerbaijan. The collection itself has been built over the past three years and will continue to grow in part through special commissions for exhibitions at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre curated by Suad Garayeva.
Shirin Neshats work has explored the complexities of cultural identity, gender and power to express a vision that embraces Persian traditions and contemporary concepts of individuality. In her recent photographic work, Neshat has focused on the portrait as a prism to reveal the cultural dynamics and personal histories of her subjects, exploring the narratives that can be read in an individual.
This new commission, The Home of My Eyes (2015), builds on Neshats growing interest in portraiture. During time spent in Azerbaijan in 2014, Neshat photographed over 50 individuals who came from communities across the country, of ages ranging from two to eighty years old. While making the photographs Neshat asked participants a series of questions regarding their cultural identity and their concept of home. The resulting responses are written in calligraphy that overlays the portraits. The assembled images make up a monumental installation which fills two entire walls of one of the 11 metre-high exhibition galleries of YARAT Contemporary Art Centre a converted Soviet-era naval building.
As Shirin Neshat explains; I consider the new series of images a portrait of a country that has for so long been a crossroads for many different ethnicities, religions, and languages. This series combines 55 portraits of men and women from different generations to create a tapestry of human faces which pays tribute to the rich cultural history of Azerbaijan and its diversity.