02/2019 3. Julia Bethwaite & Anni Kangas – Parties, Pavilions and Protests: The Heteronomous World Politics of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale


Abstract: This paper focuses on the role of contemporary art in international relations and world politics. In IR, art is often examined within the framework of cultural diplomacy, country branding, and soft power, or approached as a site of resistance. We argue that the concept of heteronomy offers an alternative conceptual framework for analysing contemporary art in world politics. It highlights the interaction of various fields such as art, commerce, the state and media. We concretise this approach with an analysis of the Venice Biennale. We show that the Biennale is heteronomous in the sense of being an arena where actors from various fields struggle for power by accumulating different types of capital. We focus our analysis on the Russian national pavilion in 2011–2015 and show how the efforts of the country’s elite to legitimise its position intertwined with the projects of the state, sponsors, artists, curators and art market actors.


The shower of gold in Vadim Zakharov’s installation Danaë in the Rus- sian Pavilion in the 2013 Venice Biennale. Photo by Daniel Zakharov. Fair Use.