Early January, 2020. A suffocating smoke has enveloped the city. The sky is burnt black and orange. The sun is barely visible. You can barely breathe, even here in the city. Bushfires are burning across eastern Australia, and images of bright red waves devouring everything play on every television. The pictures merge with the blurred image of the burning wreckage of a car carrying an assassinated Iranian army general, killed by a US airstrike in Iraq. We wait for Iran to retaliate. State television broadcasts images of missiles striking a US airbase. We wait. Images emerge of the burning wreckage of a passenger plane, shot down by mistake. Images of protestors filling the streets. Of burning flags and teargas. A virus is now spreading across the globe like those unstoppable fires in Australia. Iran is defenseless. Countless dead already. More images. Of makeshift graves and white shrouded bodies. Of doctors collapsed on packed hospital floors. Of ghost-like figures giving orders. Separated by cold-blue cloth and see-through screens. Our only means of connection. Unable to touch each other. Unable to breathe. Unable to breathe. The image of an innocent man pleading to police sparks protests across America. Police are sent in rows to smother them. Smoke. Fire. Destruction. A factory catches fire in Lebanon. The explosion sends red smoke spiralling towards heaven. The shock is felt in Palestine. In Palestine. Where fire has again descended from the sky. And where a mother, arms outreached to heaven, pleads. When will this end.
Images of 2020. Ghost-like. Suspended. And surrounded by the same aura. Like the faint blue glow of screens that separate us. Our only means of connection.
This work was originally inspired by a collection of short stories by the Iranian novelist Sadeq Hedayat. In one of them–Sayeh Roshan (Chiaroscuro)–the author describes a future society in which the light of human progress casts its own shadow; a society in which humans are unable to touch; unable to love or communicate, except virtually.
Hedayat committed suicide–gassed himself–in 1951.