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Gladstone Gallery is presenting Shirin Neshat’s “Land of Dreams," a two-channel film installation and a series of more than one hundred photographs created entirely in New Mexico during 2019. Presented in its entirety for the first time, the body of work represents a shift in Neshat’s practice, turning her lens on the people and landscapes of the American West.
Captured in black-and-white, the photographic series features an installation of 111 images, depicting New Mexico residents. The artist asks the individuals about their dreams, often recording them along with their name, date, and place of birth on the photos in Farsi calligraphy. Executed with clean backdrops and no props, Neshat has also included ornate drawings specific to the subjects’ dreams.
The first channel of the film work follows the character Simin, an Iranian art student traveling the rural areas of the state in order to complete an assignment. Simin photographs locals in their homes for her project, asking them about their most recent dreams. The viewers are then transported, along with the protaganist, into the subconscious of her subjects, experiencing vividly the imagery from their dreams.
In the second part of the film, Simin is revealed as an Iranian spy whose mission is to archive the dreams and images captured. Following Simin into a bunker in the mountains, viewers become aware that the character is especially drawn to one of her subjects, as she begins searching for a subconscious connection. Through Simin’s gaze, Neshat executes a narrative drawing parallels between Iran and the United States, highlighting a shared sense of humanity through the complex relationship between the dangers of oppressive political ideologies and the fleeting nature of a dream, while simultaneously painting a captivating portrait of America’s inhabitants.
“Land of Dreams is an absurd and satirical narrative that sheds light on the perpetual antagonism that has been going on in between America and Iran. What was very important to me for this work was that the work by no means supported or criticized any specific administration or individuals in positions of power, but to bring attention to the resemblances and ironies between my home country of Iran and the United states, and how these two societies are beginning to look more similar,” said Neshat.
Neshat’s “Land of Dreams” will remain open at the New York City gallery through February 27 and is accompanied by a virtual presentation, accessible on the gallery’s website.