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The Ambivalent Site: Islamic Culture and Iranian Diaspora Women Artists in Contemporary Art

Joo, Ha Young 1

1홍익대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The research explores the open and closed side of Islamic culture from different perspectives in contemporary art, and it engages with Iranian diaspora artists who live and work outside Iran or in-between two nations, a native and an adopted country. It also focuses on how these artists have received the complex concept of Islam and explored, in their art, their multiple identities as an Iranian, a woman, and an artist. To begin the research, the relationship between Orientalism, occurring from the difference between the East and the West, and women’s identity has to be studied, along with the conflict and discriminate concept of women’s position from inside and outside of Islamic culture. This brings the issues of boundary between the existence and nonexistence into the research, and truth and false, in the context of post-modernism and post-colonial discourses. The study of Islamic culture and Iranian women artists is heavily weighed by the complex meanings of “Islam”, and the reality that Iranian women artists have struggled against various forms of oppression and censorship in the patriarchal structures of Islam. These artists have often encountered obstacles in presenting their art to the general public. However, the concept of “Islam” is difficult to define; it can be a nation, a religion, a belief,an identity, and a moral value. In addition, Muslim women often consider images of sexual discrimination in contemporary society, and the hijab becomes the symbolic object to oppress society and culture. However, there are many biased cultural clichés which many people want to believe. Hijab is not just a simple discourse that we believe to understand; it symbolizes the spirit of resistance against imperialism and western culture, and is an object used by women to hide their status and class, so that in public space they can view each other as equal. In the critical discussions of contemporary Iranian art, the topic of women’s art registers some of the changes taking place in Iranian women’s identities and aspirations. This research also focuses on Iranian diaspora women artists and their work; Shirin Neshat, Mitra Tabrizian, and Parastou Forouha who moved to the U.S., the U.K., and Germany respectively before and after the Iranian Islamic Revolution, use the issues related to the hijab and Islamic culture as a site of changing identity in their work. In accordance with the concepts of generations and geographies, defined by Griselda Pollock as two axes for the study of international, post-colonial and feminist work in visual art, case studies of Iranian artists should be located at the connections of time and space. Furthermore, the research ‘The Ambivalent Site: Islamic Culture and Iranian Diaspora Women Artists in Contemporary Art’ seeks to gain valuable understandings into the conditions and practices of contemporary Iranian diaspora women artists who live and work outside of Iran.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.