The piercing gaze and fatigued expression of Sayed captures the euphoria and loss brought on by revolution. The image is part of a sixteen-portrait series entitled Our House Is on Fire, named after a line in the poem "A Cry" by the Iranian poet Mehdi Akhavan Sales (1928-1990). The series brought Neshat to Cairo in the aftermath of the Arab Spring to speak with and photograph Egyptian people. The texts overlaid on the face however, are in Persian, including several poets of the Iranian Revolution (including Sales) as well as Persian translation of works by the Arabic poet Mahmoud Darwish. This barely-visible layer of text, written in Farsi script, is a trace of the artist's own labor, a reference to the Persian art of calligraphy, and a metaphor for the indecipherable experience of political tumult. The challenge of picturing loss and grief is personal for Neshat, who has spent most of her adult life in exile: "I feel strongly that you cannot make work about a subject unless you have experienced it yourself. You can't make work about exile unless you have lived in exile. You cannot make painful art unless you have suffered. You cannot make political work if you haven't lived a political life."
“Our House is on Fire” series, an exploration of Egypt after the Arab Spring, which the Foundation supported.
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