Khosrow Hassanzadeh


In Khosrow Hassanzadeh’s memories of the Iran-Iraq War, visualized in this series of paintings, we see a lot of dead people — dead people in white shrouds against dark backgrounds; dead people walking; dead people talking; dead people carrying more dead people; dead people mourning other dead people; dead people in coffins; dead people remembering themselves in photographic memories. Dead people seem to live in Hassanzadeh’s paintings. They do.

The thorny issue of the ‘resurrection’ (al-ma’ad) of dead people in order to face their Creator on the Day of Judgment and give an account of what they have done while alive, is a principle definitive to Islamic doctrinal disposition. Soon after the formation of Islamic juridical schools and theological divisions, the doctrine was extended way beyond such `nomocentrie domains and entered into moral and philosophical debates. Although evident throughout Islamic doctrinal and philosophical history, the question of ‘resurrection’ assumed renewed significance in sixteenth-century Safavid Iran after the establishment of the ‘School of Isfahan’ in Shi’i philosophy.

In one of its most enduring renditions, the philosophical issue of ‘resurrection’ finds its most eloquent reading in the Gohar Morad, a philosophical compendium of unsurpassed elegance and significance composed by the leading Shi’i philosopher ‘Abd alaRazzaq Lahip (d. 1661) in the mid-seventeenth century.

Lahir s suggestion is that people differ on their position of ‘resurrection’ because they differ over their conception of human existence. Those who believe that humans are nothing but their physical bodies believe in b del o y resurrection; while those who believe that the essence of human beings is their soul believe in spiritual resurrection; and thus those who believe in a mixture of body and soul believe in a simultaneous bodily and spiritual resurrection; and those who doubt the very existence of human beings doubt resurrection altogether.

If we follow Lahiii’s logic and reverse its direction, it is the end of things that makes their beginning and duration meaningful, or the destination of a journey that mas If we follow Lahiji’s logic and reverse its directiokne,sitthie commencement and distance of a journey purposeful. In other words, by philosophically theorizing the end, we have a meaning of the beginning; or by imagining the world to come, we speculate on the nature of the world in which we now live. What Lahiji is perhaps doing is providing a theory of how dead people read the living.

The rapid course of successive events in Iran, before and after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, demands and exacts a necessary historical amnesia: a collective repression of a traumatic past that, unless surpassed and overcome, will continue to disrupt the vision of a future that must summon a people to its survival. The repression is never complete, nor can it ever be a categorical failure. The remnants of the memorial trauma — of lives lost at their prime, dreams betrayed, visions darkened — can be politically manipulated and ideologically charged for a belligerent state apparatus always conscious of its il/legitimacy. That it can be used and abused does not mean that the collective trauma itself is false or faltering.

Thousands of Iranians lost their lives in the course of the Islamic Revolution of 1977-79; hundreds of thousands more youths perished in the course of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88. By visually contemplating the end of bodies thus perished, Hassanzadeh is speculating on the commencement of their communal gathering: the dead providing a running commentary on the living.

If ‘Abd al-Razzaq Lahiii theorized the philosophical disposition of a Shi’i eschatology that makes sense °I its history, Khosrow Hassanzadeh isthe metaphysical whereabouts visualizing once bodily ts 0f a memorial resurrection ot r lasting, and spiritual, momentary and eve perishableand and permanent, meaningless purposeful.