Shirin Neshat’s Photos of the Egyptian Revolution

Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat used close-up portraiture to make viewers understand the depth of suffering in Egypt Andrew H. Walker/Getty

The toe-tagged feet of the dead are decorated with calligraphy. The worry-wrinkled heads of the poor and pious are also lettered with delicate script.

In her latest project "Our House Is on Fire," Iranian artist Shirin Neshat examines the brutal aftermath of the failed Egyptian revolution by overlaying photos of the victims with poetic text. The project, on display in New York City starting Jan. 31, will also help some of those victimized by the revolution: The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, a humanitarian arts organization, commissioned Neshat to create the series and as part of the arrangement, proceeds from some works will be donated to charities in Egypt.

Shirin Neshat - Rauschenberg Foundation Project from Artspace on Vimeo.

Neshat told Newsweek that "Our House Is on Fire" stems from the death and destruction she saw in Cairo, including the corpses of "young men and women and little children with tags on their feet," when she traveled there to work in 2012. 1.27_Iran_Artist.jpg Courtesy Gladstone Gallery

During that trip, Neshat's colleague on the project, photographer Larry Barnes, was mourning the unexpected death of his daughter, further prompting Neshat's desire to explore how people deal with pain on both a personal and national level, she says.

Neshat asked Egyptians -- street vendors and mechanics, rather than high profile politicians or militants -- to share their stories about the revolution as she photographed them. The portraits are direct and close-up.

"When you stand in front of the images, you are faced with someone else's pain," she says.

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