Ms. Neshat, what role does memory play in your art?
As a visual artist, there are things that stick with me that are somewhat illogical but that are very emotional and nostalgic. For example, the garden of the house that I grew up in Qazvin, Iran — which has since been demolished — was perfectly symmetrical and beautifully designed. Even now, I could draw it from memory. It felt like heaven inside of it! This for me is the ultimate blissful memory of my past.
After leaving your home to study in the US, you were unable to return once the Iranian Revolution broke out in 1979. How did your relationship to those memories shift when you were living in exile?
I think for people who live in exile and people who have immigrated, there are certain things that they bring with them and there’s a lot that they let go of. It depends on who they are… I do not remember many of my friends’ names, for example, but there are certain moments that I remember extremely vividly and I have no idea why. I think that’s just human mystery. The memory of the garden, though, has been like a dream that always reappears.