Vladislav Shapovalov: Image Diplomacy

In the presence of the artist | in the context of IFFI 2021

Cover: Image Diplomacy

As a follow-up to his Büchsenhausen Fellowship in 2016-17, artist Vladislav Shapovalov will show his film Image Diplomacy at the Innsbruck International Film Festival. The film was developed at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen and produced in collaboration with the V-A-C Foundation in Moscow. The screening will be followed by the presentation of the associated publication in the presence of the artist.

The Film:

The film deals with specific historical aspects of the construction of the political-imaginary by means of exhibition strategies and the photographic medium in the 20th century: on the one hand, it is about Soviet photo exhibitions and films that sought to convey socialist modernity and a controlled image of the USSR, with positive connotations, during the Cold War. On the other hand, the film sets these politics of representation against their western pendant: Edward Steichen’s famous, controversially discussed photo exhibition The Family of Man, which was also instrumentalized politically by the USA after 1955, elevated to the status of World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2003, and can now be viewed as a permanent exhibition in Clervaux, Luxembourg. To realise this critical investigation, the artist used photo and film material from archives in Italy, Russia and the USA. Employing documentary, essayist means, Shapovalov conceived a filmic narration revealing how the social and political ideals of the Soviet Union were transported by means of cultural diplomacy during the Cold War. Sociopolitical ideals – free access to education, to the health system and sufficient living space, the emancipation of women – and real-political strategies like the “conquest” of space and socialist internationalism in the so-called Third World, thereby constitute the thematic framework to a visual communications policy in no way inferior to the American Family of Man exhibition with its complexity and universal pretensions. Image Diplomacy by Vladislav Shapovalov calls back to the present questions which are still extremely relevant to society but have been forgotten or pushed into the background after the fall of communism.

Image Diplomacy
2017, Austria/Italy/Luxembourg/Czech Republic/Russia
Director: Vladislav Shapovalov
Language: English with English subtitles
Running time: 29 min

The Book:

The publication documents Vladislav Shapovalov’s long-term undertaking Image Diplomacy, consisting of a film and a series of installations focused on exhibitions as a political medium. The project narrates the battle waged between two ideological blocs, the USSR and the United States, in the field of “exhibition diplomacy” during the Cold War and gives insight into the unwritten history of Soviet soft power and socialist internationalism. It compares forgotten archival materials left behind in Europe from Soviet photographic “kit” exhibitions and films with the American Family of Man exhibition, on display today at Luxembourg’s Clervaux Castle and included in the UNESCO Register. Interplays between exhibition histories, geopolitics, and art practice are further examined in the contributions by film scholar Alex Fletcher and curator and researcher Gudrun Ratzinger; a conversation between Shapovalov and curator Emanuele Guidi; and an essay by curator and researcher Andrei Siclodi.

Vladislav Shapovalov was Büchsenhausen Fellow in 2016-17. The book Image Diplomacy has been supported by the grant of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and was published in cooperation with ar/ge kunst, Bolzano and Mousse Publishing.

The book appeared in the series Büchs’n’Books — Art and Knowledge Production in Context
Volume 7

Published by Mousse Publishing in cooperation with ar/ge kunst and Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen
First published in 2020
English, 92 pages
EUR 25 / $ 29.95
ISBN: 978-88-6749-405-7

Leokino 2
Anichstraße 36
6020 Innsbruck