Mehrdad Afsari ©
“In the Name of the One Who Is Light”
A note on “His illumination is a veil over his illumination” a video by Mehrdad Afsari
“In the beginning were two essences: the essence of light and the essence of darkness.” —Arzhang, Mani
Light is standing against darkness. But our world is one of dualism: one part is the realm of light and the other is where darkness lies. In this dual world, human beings have always sought the light; like the invention of photography. Perhaps finding a causal relationship between photography and Illuminationism would seem farfetched, but its consanguineous relation to light is nevertheless undeniable.Mehrdad Afsari is a photographer who has made photography his point of departure. A photographer: a title that has stuck with him like a shadow, never leaving him alone. Perhaps all his endeavors in the last decades have always been to encounter and know this shadow. In a sense, he is struggling with “photography” in order to find what is essentially is and how can it alienate the world the way it does and devour it, adding something else to “whatever has been.”This “phenomenon” originates from the era of rebellion and domination of man. It has ironically come from the eastern hinterlands, and similar to his bright ancestors, it pertains to two aspects of light and darkness; the darkness that is at its core and is a ground and a womb that can retrieve and develop the light that has been shed: the light that is always with him. Even though it may seem, at the first glace, that it is photography that is searching for the light, but when you look again, you will see it is light that remains inside his darkness and become eternal: it is the camera obscura that makes it possible for the light to be captured.It is thus that the totally bright light is not enough for it to become manifest, so it hides itself behind a veil. What becomes visible to us is the light that has given its poison over to darkness and has become bright. Light has reduced itself so that its brightness can be perceived.In this work, Afsari has juxtaposed water and brightness with darkness. Brightness is reflected in the water like an existent, yet unattainable, manifestation, which is far from its source, i.e. the sun, and the darkness in the middle forms this connection. He represents this separation with a time-based medium, in which movement and time is felt, and the dancing reflection of light on the surface of the water confirms his dilemma: entering the light or the darkness. Although the artist, through its inseparability from photography, is still carrying its challenge with him, his enquiry into the relation between darkness and light has led him to a kind of peremptory interpretation of something that is in fact the result of the vain attempt of man to achieve immortality.The depths of this sentiment cannot be seen, for it is too bright; or, in other words, it is dark. It can be inferred from Suhrawardi’s saying: “His brightness is the veil of his brightness.” The omission of color and giving the subject-matter over to conceivable symbols of white, black, and gray, which stand for for sun, shade, and water respectively, have helped the artist to represent his perception of the world (with the dominance of darkness and frailty of light) without needing further explanation.Moreover, detachment from tangible objects in the image and being content with mere reflection, depicts an imagination and a fantasy that further confirm his skepticism. And there is no way to get out of it. As a meter of fact, in the world of images, he is submerged in conundrums.This work is marked by gazing: interminable staring at the play between shadow and light, whose existence and non-existence are interdependent. In this video, he has put the materialized effect of his dilemma on display. The light that is observed in Afsari’s work is self-existent, whereas darkness is contingent, for shadow comes from an object in proximity, but the source of light is the sun. In fact, the shadow is cast on the artist himself, but light is outside of him somewhere out of reach.Afsari knows the world constructed upon light and darkness, for he is a photographer: he has sensed the value of light and darkness in a tangible, practical fashion, as a necessary being. However, he is standing in awe in front of it to see what lies behind it: that which is so bright it has become dark. That eternal essence.