Curated by V-A-C’s Anna Ilchenko, ‘Image Diplomacy’ is the first ever solo exhibition for Milan based Russian artist Vladislav Shapovalov.
Image Diplomacy is a research project and body of work combining photography, original documents and film. The exhibition focuses on highlighting aspects of how the political vision of the mid-20th century was constructed also thanks to landmark exhibitions. This critical investigation is done through Shapovalov’s study of exhibition strategies, photographic and film content of the time, with the aid of state and public archive material from Italy, Russia and the United States.
The story of Image Diplomacy started in Milan, where Shapovalov found a photographic archive consisting of more than 100 folders. Each folder contained a set of photographs and a guide for putting together a series of exhibitions. During the Cold War, such folders were distributed by an organisation called VOKS (an acronym for the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries) in order to spread a positive image of the Soviet Union across the world. One of the works to be shown in Moscow is the installation I Left My Heart in Rhodesia (2017), where the artist attempts to reconstruct one of the ‘ready-made’ exhibitions that he came across, which in reality may or may not have ever taken place.
A central work is the film Image Diplomacy, made specifically for the exhibition. In the film, the artist compares the cultural strategies adopted in the USSR and the USA during the Cold War, taking the famous American photographic exhibition The Family of Man — originally shown at MoMA — and exhibitions created by VOKS as examples. The film is set inside the archive of Association Italy Russia in Milan, at the Film Archive in Bologna, and at the Clervaux Castle in Luxembourg, home to the UNESCO recognised photographic exhibition entitled The Family of Man. Offering infinitely diverse images of life in the 50s, The Family of Man consisted of hundreds of photographs and went on to influence both the future of exhibition making and public opinion at the time.
Despite being based on historical materials, Shapovalov’s work uses the past as a means of reflection on current social and political relations and how they are represented culturally. A series of talks and workshops by Russian and foreign researchers in the fields of cinematography, visual culture, human rights and linguistics will accompany the exhibition.
Vladislav Shapovalov is an artist, researcher and editor living and working in Moscow and Milan. He is a former member of the art-group Radek Community (1999-2007). As a solo artist he has participated in the exhibitions: The False Calculations Presidium (2012), V-A-C international group show The Way of Enthusiasts, held during the 13th Architectural Biennale in Venice (2012), The School of Kyiv. Kyiv Biennial (2015), Atlas [of the ruins] of Europe in Madrid (2016) and A Thousand Roaring Beasts: Display Devices For A Critical Modernity, Seville (2017). He was a fellow at International Fellowship Program for Art and Theory 2016–2017 at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen, Innsbruck.
Curator: Anna Ilchenko.