Winner of 2019 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize

We are delighted to announce that Giorgia Maria Maffioli Brigatti (University of Cambridge) is the winner of the Association for Art History’s 2019 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize for her essay, ‘Revolutions through the eyes of Shirin Neshat’. An abstract of her dissertation is below.

Shortlisted runners up

We also shortlisted two runners up. These were:

The Great Renunciation’ at Kibokolo Photography and Ideology on the Missionary Frontier, 1924-31’, by Michael Kurtz (University of Oxford).

CUT, PASTE, INTERROGATE Collage as an interventional tactic in Collier Schorr’s Jens F’ by Rachel Hughes (University of Manchester).

Winner’s Abstract

‘Revolutions through the eyes of Shirin Neshat’, by Giorgia Maria Maffioli Brigatti.

This dissertation centres on Shirin Neshat’s (b.1957, Iran) three photographic series: Women of Allah (1994-1997), The Book of Kings (2012) and Our House Is on Fire (2013). Through performance and metaphors, Neshat questions the representation and the symbolism of three political revolutions, respectively, the 1979 Islamic revolution and the 2009 Green Movement, in Iran, and the Arab Spring, in Cairo, 2013. The artist employs performativity as a tool to stage these revolutionary moments in front of the spectator, who becomes increasingly engaged throughout these works. This dissertation is divided into three chapters each one devoted to one photographic series, however showing the interlinking features that run through Neshat’s work. The relationship between the poetry inscribed by hand on the photographs and the image construction is the main aspect this dissertation aims at analysing, particularly as the meaning of the poetry has been largely overlooked. The appendix offers a literal translation of the Farsi texts, a rather unedited approach to the artist’s oeuvre. The first chapter demonstrates the close connection between Neshat’s photographs and Tehran’s murals devoted to the martyrs of the 1979 revolution and the Iran-Iraq war (1980- 1988). The text and image composition underline that these artworks offer an alternative reading of martyrdom through staging and performance. The second chapter illustrates how the artist brings together the Persian epic poem, Shahnameh (c. 977-1010 CE), and the Iranian political movement of 2009 to offer a more legendary narration of the events. The final chapter analyses how Neshat turns the question of revolutions and human losses to the spectator, who becomes the main performer. The artist represents the Arab Spring in Cairo in relation to the human tragedies that were engendered. Performance is the pivotal and ever-changing character of Neshat’s photographic series, as this dissertation argues.

Read of download the full essay (pdf) by Giorgia Maria Maffioli Brigatti.

The Dissertation Prize is assessed by our Doctoral and Early Career Research (DECR) committee. Many thanks to those on the committee who read and shortlisted this year’s submissions. The quality and originality of this year’s undergraduate essays was, by all accounts, extremely high.

Read more about our 2018 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize winner and shortlist here.

Image credit: Shirin Neshat, Offered Eyes (detail), in Unveiling series, 1993. Ink on black and white gelatin silver print, 133 x 92.1 cm. Photo taken by Plauto. Copyright of Shirin Neshat.