Politics & Aesthetics in Kazakhstan

How design conveys power and ideology into a populace on a national level.

Noteh Krauss
Guest Lecturer
California College of the Arts

Politics & Aesthetics in Kazakhstan examines the way in which design conveys power and ideology into a populace on a national level. This paper is primarily interested in how this process takes place from both a material and philosophical level and explores the mechanics of how metaphysical concepts such as ideas of identity and kinship with fellow citizens become imbued into material form via aesthetics. This paper develops the concept of aesthetics as the meeting place of the material and immaterial and as a critical lens for understanding the role of design in anthropology, political science, and other disciplines.

This paper uses frameworks and approaches rooted in Critical Theory involving such thinkers as Foucault, Ranciere, and Marcuse. The framework developed is applied to a history of Astana (now called Nur Sultan), the capital of the modern Kazakh state. Through in-depth research on the architectural history of four of the most monumental buildings in the capital combined with Kazakh government statements of policy a thread between the immaterial ideas of power, statehood and citizenship are drawn into the aesthetic layer of the capital.

Once this thread is established, the paper, through Critical Theory and other methods, connects that same thread from the aesthetic layer down to the experience of the anonymous citizen inhabiting Kazakhstan both in the capital and beyond. By examining the aesthetic experience experienced on an individual level we come to see how ideas of state, power, and control become effectively imbued into the psyche of the populace.

The paper concludes that a feedback loop is created whereby the aesthetic environment becomes the invisible enforcer of cultural ideology in a given place, which in turn a populace will continue to recreate. This understanding of the cycle of culture is a powerful tool to breaking down the effects of design in our modern world.

The Avant-Garde of Iranian Graphic Design

Pouya Jahanshahi
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History
Oklahoma State University

The advent of the Apple Macintosh brought about a rapid flow of technological change which affected almost every part of visual communication arena, in one way or another. Since the start of this digital revolution, most graphic design communities around the world succeeded in maintaining their national identities, while implementing the technological changes into their industries, hence joining the global world of graphic design. However, because of challenges related to mark-making and the specifics of calligraphic-based scripts, Iranian typography – and by extension graphic design – struggled to maintain and its rich historic traditions and visual aesthetics, as Perso-Arabic characters necessitated a process of digitization for use in dominant graphic software applications of the time.

Furthermore, during this global digital revolution, various socio-political and technological circumstances resulted in the isolation of the Iranian graphic design arena from the global culture, for more than a decade. More recently, the dusk of 20th-century, brought forth an impenitent generation of innovative thinkers and designers, keen to define their lost identity. Through inwards nationalistic perspectives as well as technical and conceptual innovations, this generation made giant leaps and set forth a trajectory toward joining the global graphic design arena.

This research delves into the nuanced traditions of Iranian calligraphy and the struggle for its adaption to western printing technologies. Specifically, it focuses on the process, and the eventual arrival of what may be referred to as a hybrid graphic form – one comprising of the traditional eastern calligraphic forms and nuances, merged with the characteristics found in western typographic structures and letterform design.