By Ivonne Sheen
In Susan Sontag’s famous book, On Photography, she argues that we are living in Plato’s cave made out of reproducible images, questioning about our visual imaginaries, which are not only fed by concrete experience, but also by reproduced images. This argument can be read in Parastoo Anoushahpour, Faraz Anoushahpour and Ryan Ferko’s refined film Chooka (2018), which was part of Media City Film Festival’s International Competition.
Images and technology are in constant evolution, and as a result are our imaginaries as well. Chooka approaches two nearby sceneries where images are a trace of time and history. One is the abandoned residences of foreign families who owned a paper factory during the Shah’s regime, who later escaped from the Iranian revolution and left their empty houses rotten. We get to know their faces by a found footage film and also confirm their identities through a series of photographs shown to the man to whom they left their keys. This relationship to history is interconnected to a family memory of the shooting of Bahram Beyzaie’s film, The Stranger and The Fog, that took place in their house during the same epoch.
In the present, this family watch the film in a laptop screen and remember they didn’t have electric light during those years. Life was different. The child who sleeps next to the computer while the film is playing, later show us the series of surveillance cameras around his family’s property. Two different ways of constructing an imaginary of a place, mediated by different technologies in different contexts. There’s a thought in the power we nowadays may have for creating imaginaries, it seems to be more democratic and diverse. Nevertheless, the feeling of being easily surveilled remind us that images have already had this power, of concrete reference, a sort kind of proof, of memory.
“Memory can edit reality in some such way and then the edited version is too good to let go. Memory makes what is need to make” says Anne Carson in her Lecture on Corners. This trio relates this feeling to the evocation in the organic, in the landscape, we watch golden waves of a nearby beach while we hear a memory of a childhood, an evidently personal memory. A different relationship to those years before the Iranian revolution, moment that I connect to the series of trees and landscape we watch while in the present the youngest member of the family teaches Iranian to one of the directors, an invocation to those foreigners who once lived there, an idiomatic exchange that also happened in the past. In the present rotten and burned buildings remain, as a physical proof of the foreigners’ life there, as well as the images of them.
Chooka builds a subtle essay about visual memory and time, which becomes into a mirror of ourselves, of our collective and personal visuality, which is also part of our essence and knowledge.
Artists: Faraz & Parastoo Anoushahpour, Ryan Ferko