Tan ze jân (o jân ze tan…)/Body out of spirit
Yves Porter, Aix Marseille Université (France)
Marcel Proust writes, in Finding Time Again: “Real paradises are the ones we have lost”. For we do like to recognize: a long time lost old acquaintance, a familiar landscape, a dream far of hand, a forgotten fragrance, a forsaken ill-treated homeland. We might use mnemonic images in order to find again the ringing bell of elapsed remembrances: a friend is tied to a place, or a meal, or a drink; a sound reminds us of a moment, the tintinnabulation of a star…
Schematic figures are helpful in this process; thus in the shape of countries, for instance, Italy becomes a boot, Spain is the skin of a bull, Iran is figured as a reclining cat. But are such things as countries as simple as this? Indeed before long, these too schematic images merge into one another, mingling reality with phantasm, ideologies with expectations. Confusion & pain keep blurring our memories. To the most existential questions (Who are we? Where do we come from?), unsatisfactory answers are given. These are bound by the way we have learned History, by the way the school text-books have been written, by the way our rulers want us to recognize ourselves, surreptitiously building up our identities… Can we be dispossessed of our own identity? What makes us who we really are? Are bodies the most objective forms to answer these questions?
Identity, Memory, History, are “embodied” here in the powerful works of Mohammad Foruzandeh: Iran is a tortured body, cut up in bits by History, bleeding and carved as a piece of meat on the table of kings. Yet the “answers” are not simple: each work shows a distinct facet, as if seen through coloured glasses in a diversity of hues, or states of mind, or even in a more soothing mode, almost like musical variations.
These works reflect the fragmentary nature of Memory. Land, country, territory, frontiers, earth, rivers, seas (but sky too), languages, ethnic groups, simple men and women: geographical maps are torn to pieces, together with scraps of historical documents. Factual odds and ends are mixed with trivial or soothing flowers and birds (gol-o bolbol). None of these elements are obvious: they stratify instead in a long process, layer after layer, eventually forming a sort of palimpsest of uneasy reading. Traces, foot-prints, souvenirs, both capital, frivolous, or ironical, superimpose, allowing at times a distance, while in other occasions vision is obscured. Simultaneously, the “noble body” undergoes the physical transposition (something of an inverted transubstantiation) towards something un-physical, even if pain, sorrow, but also joy, or pleasure, and desire might be felt intensely in the body. Thus, as Mowlavi sings, what is body without spirit (or the other way)?
Foruzandeh’s crumpled, bending, smeared, suffering, diffracted bodies might remind us of martyrdom, of Michelangelo’s Chained Slaves, or of Christ’s Pietistic iconography, yelling in the oxymoron of a dumb scream. Yet the noble body also contains the hopeful germs of a Shakespearian “Glorious summer”!