Exhibitions of Influence

Display and Film as Political Medium

Politics and strategies of representation are closely intertwined. The mass political projects of the 20th century depended largely on visual media in the production of ideological formulations and the dissemination of political narratives. Exhibition complexes of both socialist and capitalist countries blended together arts, photography, cinema, design and experiments in exhibition grammar to promote their political agenda to the viewers in the First, Second and Third worlds.

The symposium takes its title from a statement by the curator and art critic Bruce W. Ferguson, who claims that “the will to influence is at the core of any exhibition”. In this context, “exhibition” stands for a general act of showing to create evidence, and encompasses the medium of art and non-art exhibition as well as the medium of fiction and nonfiction cinema.

The participants in the symposium – Anna Ladinig (Slavist, Innsbruck), Susan E. Reid (Cultural Scientist, Loughborough), Oksana Sarkisova (Cultural Scientist, Budapest) and Vladislav Shapovalov (Artist, Milan / Moscow) – will analyze different historical cases of the use of cinema and exhibitions as political media. How is it that the act of exhibiting, which appears neutral, always has been and still can be political? How does cinematic language construct nations, ethnic identities and ideological spaces? How can an exhibition function as a contact zone between irreconcilable political projects? And, finally, can the language of exhibitions be used as a tool to study the political function of exhibition practice and develop new epistemologies of display?

This discursive laboratory has been organized by Vladislav Shapovalov in the context of his fellowship at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen and his research project Image Diplomacy, which investigates the specific functions of the image and exhibition in the system of political culture, and aims towards the production of a documentary film.

Vladislav Shapovalov (*1981, Rostov-on-Don, Russia) is an artist and researcher living and working in Milan and Moscow. He was a member of the art-group Radek Community from 1999-2007. Since 2008 he has been working independently on projects that focus on rethinking images, cultural artifacts and the construction of narratives as a way to construe and analyze geopolitical configurations. In 2016/17, Shapovalov took part in the Fellowship Program for Art and Theory in Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen with support from the City of Innsbruck. He is currently preparing his first solo exhibition Image Diplomacy in the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (as from 17.11.2017), in which the film of the same name as well as the installation produced in Büchsenhausen, I Left My Heart in Rhodesia (2017), will be shown among other things. A further solo exhibition by Vladislav Shapovalov will take place as from the beginning of December 2017 at ar/ge kunst in Bolzano.

Recent exhibitions include Atlas [of the ruins] of Europe, curated by Julia Morandeira Arrizabalaga and José Riello, CentroCentro, Madrid, 2016; Fear. The Origin of the State, curated by Fedor Blašák and Christian Kobald, Nová synagóga / Kunsthalle Žilina, Slovakia, 2015; The School of Kyiv. Kyiv Biennial, curated by Hedwig Saxenhuber and Georg Schollhammer, Kyiv, 2015; Sources Go Dark, curated by Valerio Borgonuovo and Silvia Franceschini, Futura Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, 2015.

In the context of the Fellowship Program for Art and Theory 2016-17 at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen in Innsbruck, Vladislav Shapovalov published the book Image Diplomacy (2020).


Susan E. Reid is Professor of Cultural History in the Department of Politics, History and International Relations at Loughborough University. She has published widely on painting, visual and material culture, gender and consumption in the Soviet Union, with a focus on the Khrushchev era and Cold War, and has a special interest in exhibitions and their viewers. Her article Cold War Dialogue: Designing the USSR Pavilion at Brussels ’58 will appear in summer 2017 in a special issue of Design and Culture (vol. 2 issue 9, 2017,  guest edited by Harriet Atkinson and Verity Clarkson).

Oksana Sarkisova is Research Fellow at Blinken OSA Archive at Central European University and Director of Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Budapest (www.verzio.org). Her fields of research are cultural history, memory and representation, film history, amateur photography, and visual studies. She authored Screening Soviet Nationalities: Kulturfilms from the Far North to Central Asia (2017), co-edited Past for the Eyes: East European Representations of Communism in Cinema and Museums after 1989 (2008), and has published widely on film history, nationality politics, contemporary Russian and Eastern European cinema, and amateur photography.

Anna Ladinig studied Slavistics and Romance language and literature at the University of Innsbruck. She specialized on film and wrote her master’s thesis about the Kirghizian cinema during the 1960s and 1970s as an instrument for the foundation of identity. In 2017 Ladinig curates a country focus on Kyrgyzstan at the International Filmfestival Innsbruck.


Rennweg 8a
A-6020 Innsbruck

+43 512 58 11 33