Vladislav Shapovalov

16.11.2018 — 31.12.2018

AVTO presents Image Diplomacy, the first show of Vladislav Shapovalov in Turkey. Image Diplomacy is a research project and a body of work. It is a survey on the cultural and political heritage of the 20th century, focusing on the exhibition as a medium.

The project was initiated after the discovery of an archive in Italy that contains portable photographic expositions on the most diverse aspects of life in the Soviet Union: from domestic and public life, technology and architecture, to women’s emancipation and achievements in space exploration. The folders were sent to Europe during the cultural Cold War in order to promote the image of a modern, emancipating, internationalist and alternative project to that of Western capitalism. These exhibitions could be assembled autonomously and at low cost by simply following the instructions and technical drawings. Thus the idea of a modernity within anyone’s reach was proclaimed not only through the reproducibility of photography and film but also by the display systems, transforming the exhibition into the chronotope of political subjectivation.

Shapovalov formalizes a research exhibition that traces both optical and curatorial techniques employed during the ideological struggle between capitalist and socialist modernities through a series of installations, photography and critical re-enactment of exhibitionary forms. 

Although historically grounded, Shapovalov’s project is concerned less with how things actually were than with how they appear in retrospect. The aim is to blast holes in established interpretations of the political imagination of the twentieth century and free up new lines of sights to allow for critical reappropriations of its legacy, and reflections on the current state of relationships between images, politics and society.

Image Diplomacy  deals with history and the materials from which it is made. Dedicated to the re-composition of facts and narratives considered obsolete or forgotten, it ruminates on the question: Why do we look at the past?

The project unfolds with each new iteration. For the exhibition in İstanbul, a new piece was produced by the artist. The new work, entitled Political Dreams  documents a portable 16mm film projector and a Moon globe sent from the USSR to Italy. The artifacts of Soviet “soft power” aimed to expand the horizon of possibilities and render the projections of potential as real, be it space travel, another kind of society or a cinematic utopia of moving images. Placed in a dreamlike setting, the objects reveal the conjunction of travel and vision unique to our time. 

Another work from the project, the film Image Diplomacy, will be screened at SALT Beyoğlu on 19 December from 17:00 to 20:00  in an event parallel to the exhibition. The film is set inside the archive of Association Italy-Russia in Milan, the Film Archive in Bologna, and at the Clervaux Castle in Luxembourg. It compares the forgotten archival materials left behind in Europe from the Soviet photographic exhibitions and films with the American Family of Man  exhibition, on display today at Clervaux Castle and included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The film documents the competition between the United States and USSR in the field of “exhibition diplomacy” and gives an insight into the unwritten history of socialist internationalism.