PublicationNotes #10

Notes #10


For in art we have to do, not with any agreeable or useful child’s play, but … with an unfolding of the truth.
Hegel, Aesthetics II

Throughout 2023, NOTES followed three editorial themes: “balance,” “space,” and “desire.” Building on these, our attention will focus in 2024 on “reconciliation,” “migration,” and “education.” Still, our guiding question remains: How and what can and do artists, cultural workers, and thinkers contribute to the world in a time of global and regional wars and conflicts, dramatic developments, instability, and personal hardship?

After intensive discussions with editorial consultants and colleagues, will continue to focus on Iran’s contemporary cultural context in order to keep bringing greater awareness of its extensive and diverse artistic and intellectual discourses to a broad global audience. In the second half of the year, we hope to also increasingly include voices from different local contexts in Southwest Asia. From now on, NOTES will be published bimonthly in an expanded edition.

We are deeply grateful for the support of a growing group of editors, authors, and artists. And we are honored to announce that art historian, lecturer, writer, and curator Helia Darabi, will support NOTES as managing editor in 2024.

The three contributions in this issue, NOTES #10, focus on painting, public and interactive art, and the relationship between poetry and philosophy.

“In the Presence of the Others” by Tehran-based art critic Ali Golestaneh offers a three-decade overview of the work of Masoumeh Mozaffari, one of Iran’s formative painters and an independent artistic personality, whose recent retrospective was held at the Lajevardi Foundation in Tehran. This text first appeared in the comprehensive monograph published in winter 2024 on the occasion of the exhibition, and is reproduced here in a shortened version. Golestaneh looks at the evolution of Mozaffari’s work through the lens of social art history. With meticulous observation, he reveals how her paintings reflect the socioeconomic fluctuations of Iran’s middle class. We follow Mozaffari’s artistic path through different eras — the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, reconstruction, reforms, the subsequent disillusionment of the 2000s, the consequences of social pressure and economic sanctions — and witness her quiet and persistent development. She chooses to stay, to create and educate, to contemplate and respond to contemporary turmoil with perseverance and resilience, while developing her painterly cosmos.

Mohsen Rafei’s socially engaged, site-specific practice is analyzed by art historian and writer Pamela Karimi in “Kinetic Confrontations.” Karimi explores the intriguing concept that a mere interplay between a swinging space and the movement of a body can shift socio-political viewpoints. Without overtly addressing sensitive topics, the defiant artist, Rafei, skillfully challenges socio-political perceptions. Through Karimi’s lens, we learn that despite government restrictions on urban spaces and limited funding, Rafei has successfully realized significant public projects. As Karimi writes, Rafei involves viewers in his works and often immerses them in moving structures that challenge their balance and perception of space. Their bodies experience instability and disorientation as they “navigate spiral staircases that move in all directions, walk on wobbly curved paths, or sit on swinging surfaces.” These challenges, as Karimi observes, foster fresh understandings of both existential questions and socio-political matters.

In “A Journey to the Solitude of Things”, Masoud Olia argues that a form of companionship exists between the poetic world of Sohrab Sepehri and the phenomenological attitude. The basis of this connection is their shared emphasis on a particular frame of mind that allows for wonder at the world, openness and receptivity to things, and reverence and love for them. Such an attitude toward the world indicates a form of reunion and reconciliation with the things around us, which is poetically embodied in Sepehri’s poems. Olia shows how poetry and philosophy can go hand in hand while demonstrating how, through poetry and in poetry — and therefore works of art — one can reach out to the world and things and establish an intimate and relevant relationship with them.

The first two contributions have as a common theme the artistic perception and presentation of instability, loss of orientation, and dissonance, while the third explores how we might bond with our surroundings by attending to details. “Reconciliation” here lies not in overcoming but in withstanding dissonance, in countering the loss of orientation with caring, even loving observation, in persevering with challenging and mobilizing social and political realities, and in wondering at the world and its things.

We hope all our readers enjoy these articles and at the same time discover exhibitions and events from our NETWORK in our CALENDAR.

Bernd Fechner, Hannah Jacobi, Helia Darabi, “Editorial,” in NOTES #10 (April/May 2024); published on, April 5, 2024.