Research Projects

Organiser et vendre : l’exposition au service de l’industrie. Culture visuelle et propagande industrielle en Suisse romande dans l’entre-deux-guerres
Claire-Lise Debluë

Recherche doctorale sous la direction du Professeur Olivier Lugon et du Professeur François Vallotton, Section d’Histoire et esthétique du cinéma (UNIL)

L’histoire des expositions industrielles en Suisse n’a pour ainsi dire jamais été abordée en dehors des sentiers battus des expositions nationales. L’engagement des organisations économiques et patronales, des associations corporatistes et de l’Etat a pourtant été essentiel dans la définition d’une « politique d’exposition » dont l’un des résultats fut l’établissement d’un « style suisse d’exposition », qui triomphera dans les années trente et dont les retombées furent à la fois symboliques et économiques. Durant la période de l’entre-deux-guerres, l’hétérogénéité des intérêts représentés caractérise la mise sur pied des expositions. Si les organisations économiques et patronales investissent ce média comme un formidable instrument de l’expansion commerciale – permettant non seulement d’éprouver les techniques émergentes d’analyse de marché et de rationalisation de la propagande, mais également de nouer des relations commerciales dans un climat de forte compétition internationale –, l’exposition constitue en outre un moyen exceptionnel de diffusion des principes du modernisme architectural et graphique. Produit de négociations entre organisations économiques et architectes, designers et graphistes du mouvement moderne, le modèle dominant de l’exposition industrielle déclenche de vives résistances en Suisse romande. Tandis que les méthodes de l’organisation scientifique et de la rationalisation s’imposent peu à peu dans le domaine de la propagande économique, les techniques d’exposition développées par les milieux romands des arts appliqués restent en retrait de ce mouvement et s’affirment progressivement contre l’hégémonie du modèle alémanique d’une part et l’usage de médias mécaniques d’autre part. Ce travail de thèse portera une attention particulière à l’analyse des dispositifs d’exposition, ainsi qu’aux discours véhiculés par les organisations et leurs acteurs. L’articulation de méthodes propres à l’histoire culturelle de l’économie et à l’épistémologie des dispositifs de vision permettra de montrer les enjeux des appropriations dont l’exposition fit l’objet par les milieux économiques, politiques et culturels helvétiques durant l’entre-deux-guerres.

Television on Display, Between Science and Mass Consumption. Exhibiting Televisual Dispositives in the Interwar Period in Germany, Great-Britain and the United States.
Anne-Katrin Weber

Ph.D research, Section d’Histoire et esthétique du cinéma (UNIL)
Supervisors: Prof. Olivier Lugon, University of Lausanne, Prof. Andreas Fickers, University of Maastricht

The 19th century utopia of seeing by electricity became reality in the mid-1920s as the development of first televisual prototypes started in different countries. Exhibitions held during the 1920s and 1930s in major European and American cities were some of the rare occasions on which a broader public had the opportunity to experience the devices and “see at distance”. The exhibition space presented television next to other techno-scientific inventions such as radio, gramophone, etc. and invited visitors to experiment with these new telecommunication tools. These shows were therefore important events for the emergence of televisual dispositives in public space and for the construction of their symbolic, cultural and social meaning prior to their institutionalization as a mass media.
My PhD research proposes to analyze more closely the exhibition of television at industrial events and World’s Fairs between 1928 and 1939 in Germany, Great-Britain and the US. By studying the scenographic setting and the discursive presentation of televisual devices at these fairs, I will discuss how the social, economical and political contexts prevailing in the three countries are translated within the exhibition space, how they determine the presentation of television, and shape its meaning for the audience. The comparative approach will allow to consider television history in a transnational perspective and to shed light on the similarities and differences of public display of television during the interwar era.
Exhibited during the early years as a scientific wonder and linked to industrial research and the engineer’s laboratory, the presentation of television evolved considerably in the mid-1930s when the devices became a materialization of a (future) mass consumer society. Similar to radio and the gramophone, television was increasingly associated with domestic life and shown as a new mass produced commodity, the exhibition space serving hereby as a testing ground for its institutionalization. This redefinition of television evolving from a scientific novelty to a potential mass media included new designs for “old machines” and a transformation of its user-spectator envisaged first as a male expert, later as the female consumer. It depended partly on technical advancement, but mainly on economic necessity and political willingness, and reflected less the current stage of televisual development than the integration of this new technology within more general discourses about modern media practices and industries.
Crystallizing the multiple meanings of interwar television, the exhibitions allow us therefore to analyze how a new means of telecommunication is introduced in public space and to understand the negotiations of its significance within the different milieus involved in its development. As events for the masses, the fairs generated and structured public discourses concerning media uses and futures and constituted themselves a “discursive space”, which shaped the devices’ existence and functions. Thus, the underlying hypothesis of this work argues that in the 1920s and 1930s television’s reception depended not on its textual content (programs) or on technical configurations, but was mainly conditioned by the context of its exhibition. This context included various layers of meaning – from the most general framework, the political and institutional structures, to the most immediate showing of television, the tag displayed next to the apparatus – which have to be analyzed interdependently with the aid of visual and textual sources found in catalogues, press, specialized magazines, etc. 

Ce projet de recherche soutenu par le FNS entreprend une histoire scénographique de la photographie moderne. À travers l’analyse d’une douzaine de manifestations clés, il examine les multiples innovations développées pendant un demi-siècle dans l’accrochage et la spatialisation de l’image photographique.