Through the visual juxtaposition of cityscapes and desert landscapes, the series The Desert Beyond the City Belongs to Me tells the story of cultural and political life in 21st century Iran, in all its rich complexity. Reminiscent of Breughel and Bosch landscapes, this series stages a dizzying range of events, from Peeping Toms in Iran’s segregated beaches to protesters filling the streets of Tehran. Colliding dynamic urban conditions with the ritualistic practices of the remote, rural Middle East, The Desert Beyond the City Belongs to Me seamlessly speaks to larger geopolitical issues. An example of such an issue can be found in the protest movement that followed the highly contested 2009 Iranian presidential election. Not only did this public outcry foreshadow the greater region’s “Arab Spring,” (a term given to the widespread wave of demonstrations, protests, and wars occurring during the still ongoing Arab Revolution), but it also brought to the surface an underlying tension at the very heart and name of the country itself: between a republic and a theocracy, between public and private, between the secular and the sacred, all as found in Sharifi’s work. By bringing elements of traditional Persian iconography together with contemporary subjects, The Desert series approaches these complex issues with a compelling collapse of time and space.