FRIDAY MAY 21, 2021
1:30 PM (EDT)

Maria Silina

Adjunct professor, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

Revolutionary Bodies: Soviet Critical Museum Displays in the 1920s and 30s (in French)

Museum of the Revolution in Leningrad in 1931
During the Cultural Revolution (1928-1932), Soviet curators extensively used habitat groups, but also human remains in immersive displays to fully engage visitors in a critical rethinking of pre-revolutionary Russian and contemporary bourgeois culture. Thus, anti-religious museums across the country exhibited displays of saint relics along with animal remains. The juxtaposition was used as visual evidence of the common materialistic and mortal nature of all human and non-human animals and served to instil spectators with feelings of rage, disgust, and cognitive dissonance directed against the religious propaganda of the past. Other museums, like the Russian Museum in Leningrad mounted several installations where human figures were used along with art objects to create an atmosphere similar to the famous International Exhibition of Surrealism in Paris mounted years later, in 1938. In my talk, I will offer an analysis of the innovative Soviet curatorial practice of reimagining bodies through creative use of habitat groups, models, and dioramas.

Maria Silina, Ph.D, is an adjunct professor at the Art History department (UQAM) and a Senior Research Fellow at the Academy of Fine Arts in Moscow. They is the author of History and Ideology: Architectural Sculpture of the 1920-1930s in the USSR (2014, in Russian). Silina’s next book, Art History on Display: Soviet Museology Between Two Wars (1920s-1930s), is forthcoming from Bard Graduate Center and Chicago U Press. They participates in several research projects that address communist art and museum studies.