December 12, 2016
Images of lives, made to be remembered. Evidence, traces, of a history that still lives. Of souls still living. In still images, and in the memories of a nation. Living, till no longer seen… In Iran, more than two decades later, faded, and fading still-photographic images of thousands of these men, martyrs – witnesses – of the Iran-Iraq war still adorn our streets, and grace our walls. They are everywhere. We remember them. And seeing them, we remember. Those of us who lived through that terrible war. But we remember them, and that time, in different ways. And these images— they mean for us, for each of us, different things. But they do mean for us – for all of us – and this is precisely their importance for me, thinking about these images as images, and as an Iranian; they are a metaphor – and more than a mere metaphor – that visibly and tangibly expresses the way in which the image-as-evidence expresses, and creates, a shared, while variously experienced history. A reality. They unite us, even while they divide us— those of us for whom these images carry a particular memory. They are part of our collective memory. And I cannot help but be struck by the way in which the ‘imagined’ community of a nation literally lives, and is born through such images; and too, by the way in which the frayed edges of these fading images express the fragility of life, and the fragility of our memories— their beautiful, but impossible resistance to death and to forgetting. But this truth – the truth of the image as evidence (of the opposition of life-and-death) – does it not lie precisely in what it conceals— in these images’ partial unreality for me? In the value of this truth precisely – and only – as a partial fiction? As a near, but still-in-some-way distant – removed – reality? Is this not the violence of every image, and metaphor— that it necessarily leaves something out in bearing meaning from one place to another, even if its meaning depends, anaphorically, on what came before? Is the truth of the image, as-metaphor, to be found in what remains, or in the remainder— in what has been carried over, or in what has been taken away? This is a very difficult thought. But for me, it is the very thought of the image, and of art. It is what we see in its images of life, and in its broken reflections; and it is what we see, albeit indirectly, in the image’s own way of teaching us to see. And this, in part, is what these images’ meaning is for me.