UW-Green Bay Prof. Kevin Kain (Humanities, History and Global Studies) and Luke Konkol (CATL and UWM Anthropology) have created a virtual heritage installation featured in the current exhibition “Images of Atheism: The Soviet Assault on Religion” at the Museum of the Russian Icons in Clinton, MA (May 5-October 2, 2022). The virtual “Godless Corner” uses Blender, an open-source 3D design and animation software, to reconstruct a historic display of anti-religious propaganda from 1926 documented in archival photographs and print sources. The virtual space replicates expositions visual imagery and an “atheist library” and displays 34 rare digitized print artifacts including 19 posters and 15 illustrated publications from seven museum and library collections.
Early Soviet ideologues intended “Godless corners” consisting of published visual images and verbal texts tacked on walls in communal places to supplant icon-centered “beautiful corners” of Orthodox Christian tradition. Propagandists conceived “Godless corners” designed for clubs, schools, army barracks, etc., as premier sites for staging anti-religious agitations and they became the most common venues for the presentation of anti-religious visual imagery. The digital three-dimensional recreation of “Godless corners” from a specific time and place, composed of actual visual propaganda and arranged in accordance with verbal and photographic evidence, offers rare historically accurate glimpses into the lived experiences of the past. Moreover, understanding systematic propaganda designed to incite and normalize societal exclusions of religious minorities through stereotyping, “othering,” and vilifying supply historical cultural insights useful in comprehending programs of intolerance, including racism, in other times and places, including our own.
Kain and Konkol will formally present the project at Center for Icon Studies Third International Conference: The Visual Culture of Iconoclasm and Atheism (June 10-11) Kain will give a keynote talk together with the exhibit curator/conference organizer and he and Konkol will jointly present a paper titled “Early Soviet ‘Godless Corners’: Documentation and Virtual (Digital) Reconstruction.” An article-length version of the paper will be published in the peer reviewed Journal of Icons Studies.
See the exhibition website.