The New Social Environment#1

Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari with Phong H. Bui


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Artist and filmmakers Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari join Rail publisher and artistic director Phong H. Bui. We conclude with a poetry reading from Rail staff member and poet, Madeleine Cravens.

In this talk

Shirin Neshat

Portrait by Phong H. Bui
Portrait by Phong H. Bui

Video and installation artist Shirin Neshat (Iranian, b.1957) explores the political and social conditions of Iranian and Muslim life in her works, particularly focusing on women and feminist issues. Neshat was born in Qazvin, Iran, and left the country to study art in the United States at 17; she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with an MFA in 1982. When she returned to her home country in 1990, she found it barely recognizable from the Iran before the 1979 Revolution, a shocking experience that incited the meditations on memory, loss, and contemporary life in Iran that are central to her work.

Her Women of Allah series, created in the mid-1990s, introduced the hallmark themes of her pieces through which she examines conditions of male, female, public, private, religious, political, and secular identities in both Iranian and Western cultures. Her videos, installations, and photographs have received great international critical acclaim outside of Iran. In 2019, The Broad Museum, Los Angeles, presented Shirin Neshat: I Will Greet the Sun Again, a survey of 25 years of the artist’s work, and her current exhibit Shirin Neshat: Land of Dreams at Gladstone Gallery, New York, is on view through February 27, 2021. Neshat currently lives and works in New York.

Shoja Azari

Portrait drawing of Shoja Azari by Phong H. Bui
Portrait drawing of Shoja Azari by Phong H. Bui
Shoja Azari is an Iranian-born visual artist and filmmaker known for films such as Women Without Men (2009), Windows (2006), and K (2002), based on three of Franz Kafka’s short stories (“The Married Couple,” “In the Penal Colony,” and “A Fratricide”). In his work, Azari confronts broad themes of gender, politics, and piety, drawing inspiration from and re-interpreting religious icons. While collaborating with Shirin Neshat on a wealth of film and video projects, Azari created experimental and art house films, including an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s work, K (2000) and a series of short films, Windows (2005). Windows premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, bringing him into the public eye. Azari and Neshat’s film Women Without Men won the Silver Lion for best director at the 2009 Venice Film Festival. Azari has since developed a style of “video paintings” that combine media to produce a unique three-dimensional effect. He has partnered with artist Shahram Karimi on a variety of multimedia projects. Azari’s work has been exhibited globally and is included in international permanent collections. He lives and works in New York.

Phong H. Bui

Photo of Phong Bui taken by Nicola Delorme
Photo by Nicola Delorme
Phong H. Bui is an artist, writer, independent curator, Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail, the River Rail, Rail Editions, and Rail Curatorial Projects. From 2007 to 2010 he served as Curatorial Advisor at MoMA PS1. His recent projects include Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, an ongoing curatorial project that was exhibited in 2019 as an official Collateral Event of the Venice Biennale and at Colby Museum in Waterville, Maine. He is a trustee of Studio in a School, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Anthology Film Archives, the Third Rail, the Miami Rail, Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, Second Shift Studio Space of Saint Paul, AICA (2007-2020), and is co-founder of the Monira Foundation, a non-profit which aims to curate ongoing exhibitions and public programming at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City and beyond. Forthcoming projects include the Detroit Rail, the first U.S. retrospective of Jonas Mekas, and Occupy Industry City: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 3.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.