In the conclusion of the first season of “Confounding Expectations: Photography in Context,” an ambitious series produced by Aperture Foundation in collaboration with the New School/Parsons School of Design, author and critic Amei Wallach discusses with Sylvia Plachy, Shirin Neshat, and Walid Raad the impact that the act of returning home, or of turning both toward and away from homes, has on work that reflects a self that couldn’t exist without this exile.
Neshat’s most poignant photographs, videos, and installations are both politically and poetically cinematic, and were created only after she returned to Iran in the early ’90s (for the first time since the revolution in 1979). Raad’s work is one of text and context enacted through performance, photography, and assorted media; his “imaginary foundation,” the Atlas Group, researches and archives the contemporary history of Lebanon (where he was born), and his work with Arab Image Foundation promotes experimental-video production in the Middle East and North Africa. Plachy’s latest publication, Self Portrait With Cows Going Home (Aperture, 2004), is an almost lyrical travelogue of 40 years of return trips, both literal and through the medium of photography, looking back to the home in Hungary she left in 1956. The work of all three is informed by and indicative of a duality that can only come from feeling at home (and feeling lost) in more than one place. Now each resides in New York.