Land of Dreams
"Where," asks the bearded man in the lab coat, "was the lizard in the dream?" So opens Shirin Neshat's Land of Dreams, the titular film in the artist's latest exhibition at Gladstone Gallery. The main character—a young Iranian art student, loosely based on Neshat herself—travels across New Mexico while photographing its residents. During the encounters, she asks them to recount their dreams. The sparse New Mexican countryside recalls the Spartan Iranian landscapes most famously depicted in the films of Abbas Kiarostami, drawing connections of resemblance, parody, irony, and mutual demonization between the United States and Iran.
Land of Dreams is both documentary and fiction: 111 photographic portraits of New Mexico residents, hung salon-style, splay over the gray gallery walls. The sitters and portraits are adorned with Farsi, which, hand-calligraphed by Neshat herself, list the subjects' names, their dates and places of birth, and their dreams. In Isaac Silva, from the Land of Dreams series (2019) [pictured], a doe-eyed little boy with his fingers neatly interlaced sits on the floor, donning a cowboy hat. The hat recalls both the American myth of the cowboy in the Wild West as well as the myth of the American Dream, writ large.
Shirin Neshat, Isaac Silva, from Land of Dreams series, 2019. Digital c-print and acrylic paint, 60 x 40 inches.