NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 46/47

Opinion - II

Shape of Imagination; An Interaction between Image and Imagination

Yourik Karimmasihi

Undoubtedly, everyone images and imagines to the extent of his language abilities. Since “language is home to being”1 and everything is contained in the language (and is understood within a language) —all the things that we can imagine outside language would also be understood in the realm of language and lingual competence. When it comes to things we don’t understand, we understand our ignorance through language. And Wittgenstein accurately quotes that our understanding of reality is lingual, even though “the way we interpret the ‘reality’ is different across diverse language plays”2

Graphic design and literature both are realities that occurred. Currently, we are faced with two worlds: literature and graphic design. And according to Shamlou’s citation from Lorca 'One was the sun, and the moon the other'3, so interwoven, while so far apart, with language that looks different on the surface but is similar in its very essence. Literature, both verbally and in writing, is made of letters and words and its basic function is describing, speaking, and composing. Whether it is the creation of an image that is intended by the author or in the reader’s mind (formed upon his will), its quantity and quality are not pretty under the influence of the author. The reason lies in the fact that the reader has his own mind and language, his very own experiences, his own manner, his own morality, and his own psyche, with all those being beyond the reach of the author. However, in written literature, we face letters (conventional signs) with written signs.
This one-dimensional script and this written letter that is “A” is a form of conventional for a specific sound so that we all know and learn and teach. The author works with established visual conventions that are comprehensible for everyone (letter and word) and creates imaginable images in the reader’s imagination. For example, when Dostoyevsky described the Roskolnikov’s attic, who is a poor and mischievous student in Crime and Punishment, or when Shakespeare portrays three Macbeth magicians with their dialogues, or García Márquez, who reveals the mysterious world of Macondo Village and the Buendía tribe and other weird people of that region in his One hundred Years of Solitude, or when Mahmoud Dowlatabadi portrays the rapid process of Abbas’s hair turning white because of his deep horror of the avenger camel in the Missing Soluch, they are using those conventional visual signs for describing and imagining, they are using letters for picturing images. 
As with any graphic designer, whose work is based on image - even when his work is partially or completely written he offers his image impression, inevitably, the audience uses the tool of word or letter, which is his home of being, to understand or even read the image, because writing and reading are realities that are happening. This is the point where literature and graphic design meet, a point that is not a single point but rather a vast land, a land that is home to the inhabitants of the two worlds of literature and graphic design, and also residents of any other field. 
In this interaction and transfer of words and images, association is a key factor or action and even is very determining. Imagine a reader who is reading about Abbas getting into the well and his hair whitening. If he has watched the movie Come and See (Elem Germanovich Klimov4, 1985) beforehand, this would remind him of Flyora’s aging and his hair turning white; a boy as young as Abbas. This way imagining Abbas would be easier or maybe even disruptive for them! Those who have not watched Come and See imagine and then images Abbas according to their fantasy and imagination, however watching Flyora is part of a first reader’s life experience.
There is no language that its alphabet had been invented entirely and at once, even if there has been a specific inventor for it. The form and the diversity of the original alphabet of each language and nation are evidently shaped according to the mood and cultural, historical, and climatic experiences of those people.
In a short or long term of history, the alphabets are shaped and eroded, and then turn into a new form, and after undergoing small and big transformations, they stand still at one place. And such standstill is mandatory. Because it is necessary to learn, educate, write, and have a history, build a culture and literature.
The status of the alphabet also includes the language itself, although language never stops transformation and keeps changing. Any spoken language (a language that is spoken at least by two people) will change as long as its users are alive and converse in that language, even if a community’s authority is strong enough to stand against the change of language. However, since the alphabet does not undergo any radical change in any way once it is developed, the change emerges in a different manner, and that is where graphic designers come to rescue and their works are effective.
The shape of any language’s alphabet emanate from the lifestyle, mindset and the quality of the historical experiences of any country and its people, in a way that the alphabet of the Far-East is different from the Persian alphabet, the Russian, the Hindu, the Greek, and other languages, but the Far-East including its lands and people cannot be considered as one and the Korean, Chinese, and Japanese alphabets are very different in their own terms, and if we look closely, we will see that they are right, there is a big difference. The shape of the alphabet for people who have lived in a dry and deserted land differs from that of the inhabitants of a humid region covered with forests, so is there a difference between people who have lived at war for a long time and people who have never experienced a single war. The faces of the alphabets and their abilities and disabilities are the heralds of history, culture, and literature, and are the visual expression of their people.
Religion, ethics, philosophy, and mysticism of our people have made them inclined toward loneliness, settlement, and isolation. The resemblance of this nature of being far from community manifests itself in the form and nature, the solidarity and the companion of the alphabet. To the extent that the Persian alphabet is read in cohesion and continuity and it becomes meaningful in that way, quite contrary to the languages of the Anglo-Saxon5 people whose lives do not have internal and external aspects and their alphabets are singular and abstracted.
In our homeland, where the verbal culture is more popular and acceptable to us than the written one, it is obvious that the cultural creations of this land are more noteworthy and more in numbers, in a way that the prevalence and popularity of mouth to mouth narratives, legends and anecdotes have a solid position in the contemporary and old history of this land. However, it has been a few years that such a tendency toward narratives has declined.
For people who love the voice and are reluctant to writings, bearing in mind that image and picture have been regarded as unpleasant and a sign of profanity, innovations have been limited and more conservative when it comes to inventive forms, because, as argued before, the forms and alphabetical shapes of any language come from the details and quality of their lives in every aspect. Considering the people who have always been encouraged to sit and do nothing and who are resistant to social, intellectual and syntactic changes, the alphabets also have an irregularity in their nature, which makes it more difficult to make transformations and shapes innovations. They would leave a tiny room for change and give fewer opportunities to their alphabet designers for creation and innovation and even their calligraphers, whose work is very different from that of the alphabet designers; calligraphers’ works are based on complete observance of the rules and remaining faithful to the principles of writing 'A'.  
With this internalized tendency to avoid images, it was reasonable to expect that the artists in the font designing field, gain more interest in designing alphabets with a focus on the image, but our records suggest that it was not the case. On the contrary, it was Europeans who inducted the image into their letter design and merged the letters with their illustrations. Considering the Far East alphabets, they are all images in their own essence.
This is the interaction between image and imagination, the dialogue of language with itself, so that “Heidegger assumes the language to be a ‘monologue’ that only talks to itself and refers to nothing but itself [and] the space in which and because of which the language comes to existence is created by humans”6; The man who says, writes, images and imagines. A multidimensional being.
Postscript: A non-Persian friend who was a guest to Iran once told me that the Persian language is so beautiful, and further explained that, for example, the word “Baran” (meaning ‘Rain’) is very soft and melodious. He was right. And he was reassured when I showed him how we write the word “باران”. Once he saw the two narrow and straight “ا”, and the dots of “ب” and “ن”, and the “ر” which comes downward toward the bottom, he noted: This is simply the rain, and its music is just like the rain sound!
 1. Babak Ahmadi, Heidegger and the History of Being, Tehran, 2002, p. 708.
 2. Soroush Dabbagh, On analytic philosophy, with a focus on Wittgenstein, H&S Publication, 2017, p. 134.
 3. In the poem, The Song of the Dark Birds, Ahmad Shamlu, Collected Works, Book Two: Like an Endless Road, Negah Publication, Tehran, Fifth Edition, 2002, p. 262.
 4. Elem Klimov (1933-2003), Russian writer and director, Come and See is his greatest work. 
 5. Anglo-Saxon: The peoples of the English-speaking countries of Europe and the United States, and in this essay, people from the same regions that write from left to right, even if their language is not English.
 6. Giorgio Agamben, Language and Death: The Place of Negativity, Translation by Pouya Amini, Markaz Publication, Tehran, 2017, p. 8.

Yourik Karimmasihi

Born in 1964. Photographer, photo researcher, author of 12 books in the field of photography, cinema, fiction, play, and two books on photography and story ready to be published. He is the author of dozens of articles on film criticism, literature, visual arts, and performing arts, published in the Iranian press.


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