PublicationNotes #3

Notes #3


“Balance” might be approached from manifold perspectives in the context of the arts: tradition versus innovation, form versus content, abstraction versus conceptualism, individual expression versus cultural norms or expectations, to name just a few. Of course, it brings up various issues related to gender, race, and post-colonialism. However, when I was invited by as a guest editor for three issues of NOTES, the strongest resonance of the word in my mind was an ecological notion of balance, one that would examine our relation to the earth, to other living beings, and everything that is not human but is exploited by and for us as humans. It brought to my mind the rather new approach in art and humanities which seeks to summon the arts’ potential to raise consciousness about the most critical, overriding, and delicate balance that ties all the threads of life on the planet and is now at stake.

The three issues of NOTES that deal with the editorial line “Balance” bring together contributions around this cluster of ideas. The first issue, NOTES #1, under the sub-theme “human/non-human”, contemplates the oldest subjects of visual art, the “animals” and how their visual representations have a direct role in shaping our attitude towards them in real life. It gives insight into how Iranian contemporary artists have approached the subject, and how the notion of animal rights is evolving within Iranian society. (See: “In the Margins”, and “Road Kill”)

In this issue, NOTES #3, the topic of “Balance” extends our field to poetry and architecture. In his text “Giving Voice to Silence,” art philosopher Masoud Olia observes one single poem by the renowned Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou (1925 –2000) from numerous perspectives, including animals’ and humans’ relationship to the earth. Although Shamlou is mainly celebrated for his political themes as well as his strong love poetry, a less examined aspect of his work embraces multiple references to the earth, creatures, and the human relation to them. The human/earth relationship is also observed in architectural historian Saeid Khagani’s contribution ”History as an Alternative Future”, which looks at contemporary trends in Iranian architecture, drawing on history as a form of architectural phronesis, and aiming for a “more earthly future.”

The more we are faced with the urgency of ecological awareness, the more we realize that a profound understanding of environmental problems, and the way we deal with them, is closely interconnected with human imagination and social, cultural, and institutional practices. After all, anthropogenic climate disasters have their roots in human historical attitudes and the sets of beliefs that have been shaped, in their turn, by cultural agencies including art itself. And although art might not possess the power to change economic and political structures directly, it can affect ways of thinking in individuals and raise awareness that is reflected in decisions and (political) actions at micro and macro levels.

Helia Darabi, “Editorial,” NOTES #3 (July 2023); published on, June 30, 2023.