Shirin Neshat, Identified, 1995 © Shirin Neshat. Photo: Cynthia Preston, Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.
This is a response by Paul Zelevansky to April 2015

In Neshat’s films and photos, she often places the viewer inside some kind of ritual behavior or scene which if it is not explicitly Iranian and moslem, suggests a culture that applies defined rules to belief and relationships between men and women. Her work, often in black and white, sets up a sense of documentary truth which casts a stark and austere light. With “Identified,” by wrapping the woman in a head scarf and having her cover her mouth with her hands, we are asked to consider something both foreign to our experience, and unavailable like a secret. The writing and patterns on the woman’s hands and the scarf further suggest a language that might uncover this secret, but we are not given the key. This picture immediately called to mind the work of Rimma and Valeriy Gerlovin, conceptual artists who have explored the intersection of language and the body in their photos and installations. The Gerlovins, like Neshat, propose a symbolic language that the viewer is asked to believe can be unpacked, but they rely even more heavily on the structure and shape of the face, hands, hair, and torso. The woman in the Neshat is hidden in more ways than one: an expression of her power and allure, but also perhaps a sign that she is not fully free to reveal what she knows. In contrast, Rimma Gerlovin opens her body to be marked by a kind of visual speech that is sensual and mysterious, but also playful.