Land of Dreams—Shirin Neshat’s first major exhibition in Canada in 20 years—sees the convergence of photography and film into one immersive experience that presents a portrait of contemporary America. In the first part of the film, we follow the character Simin, an estranged Iranian photographer, who travels through rural America knocking on citizens’ doors to shoot their portraits and to document their dreams. In the second, we enter the clinical dystopian interiors of a bureaucratic Iranian colony housed within the mountains. Here, Simin’s portraits and dream documents are logged and analysed by the protagonist alongside fellow Iranians in lab coats.
In the exhibition, the film is set in dialogue with over 100 portraits of individuals who represent the photographs that Simin would have shot during her interview process. They capture a diverse range of American experiences, including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx peoples of many ages and genders. A number of the portraits are inscribed with hand-written Farsi calligraphy, which annotates the subjects’ dreams or notes their name, place and date of birth.
Land of Dreams is a major artistic statement that has enabled Neshat to discover new dimensions to her research and surrealist approach. To complement this important installation, the exhibition at MOCA also includes two of Neshat’s seminal films Roja (2016) and Rapture (1999), as well as photographs from the series Women of Allah (1993-1997), introducing the expanse of her work to a new generation of audiences in Canada. The project will be enhanced by a set of public programmes including screenings, talks and a specially produced interview with Neshat in Farsi, organized by guest curator Farnoosh Talaee.