Carbonization of the Aesthetic and Aestheticization of Carbon: Historicizing Oil and Its Visual Ideologies in Iran (1920–1979)


The protracted history of consuming carbon-based energy sources in Iran culminated in 1908 with the momentous discovery of the inaugural oil field in Masjed Soleyman. This newfound carbon-based source not only brought a lot of revenues to Iran but also, brought forth a multitude of materialities like pipelines, roads, bridges, refinery factories, tankers, and rigs into Iran. This new materiality exerted a profound influence on the perception and imagination of Iranians, particularly Iranian artists. Consequently, carbon permeated diverse manifestations within Iranian artworks assuming various artistic approaches; in other words, carbon was inevitably introduced into aesthetics. Serendipitously, the ascension of Reza Shah Pahlavi to power in Iran almost coincided with the discovery of oil. Reza Shah and his successor, Mohammadreza Shah, sought to position themselves as a novel international force governing a "developed" nation for which they needed to lubricate the production-consumption cycle in Iran. To achieve this objective, they championed extensive governmental propagandas that celebrated carbon-based consumerism, and with that, they introduced aesthetics into carbon. Drawing inspiration from Walter Benjamin's notions “politicizing aesthetic” and “aestheticizing politics” and insisting that in Iran, oil/carbon is politics, this paper aims to historicize the process of carbonization of aesthetics in Iranian art realm on the one hand, and aestheticization of carbon in governmental propaganda on the other hand. This paper focuses on visual ideologies in visual artworks, including architecture, painting, and sculpture in the artwork realm and postal stamps, postcards, and paper moneys, on the other hand.

Author Information
Ehssan Hanif, Cornell University, United States

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2023
Stream: Visual Culture

This paper is part of the KAMC2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

To cite this article:
Hanif E. (2023) Carbonization of the Aesthetic and Aestheticization of Carbon: Historicizing Oil and Its Visual Ideologies in Iran (1920–1979) ISSN: 2436-0503 – The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture 2023: Official Conference Proceedings
To link to this article:

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon