Cold War cultural transactions: designing the USSR for the West at Brussels Expo ‘58

2017-05-26T10:54:07Z (GMT) by Susan Reid
Focusing on the Cold War Expo in Brussels 1958, this article takes the metaphor of “design diplomacy” as a lens through which to explore the dilemmas of Soviet exhibition planners charged with designing a modern image of the USSR at the World Fair. Seeking ways to represent the advantages of socialism to foreign, especially Western publics, the exhibition organizers began to question established Soviet tradecraft in the production of mass exhibitions, concluding instead that if the USSR was to make itself understood by the capitalist “other,” it must adopt selectively the idiom of its audience and interlocutor. The Soviet ‘self was constituted in relation to two main “others”: the USA, whose pavilion was adjacent to the Soviet one; and the anticipated public, about whom the Soviet designers knew little. As in diplomatic transactions, the art of persuasion demanded negotiation and compromise, resulting in a degree of transculturation and cross-fertilization.