Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Memories back in the USSR

Boris Mikhailov, born in Ukraine made his series At Dusk in his hometown of Kharkov following the collapse of the USSR, using twilight to "record a society in transition and to evoke childhood memories" [V&A, 2012]. The monochrome photographs tinted blue refer to the 'blue hour' of twilight. The artist had been developing "a visual cosmos" since 1960s when photography was controlled by strict rules, which Mikhailov turned away from and focused on the private and the personal (Barbara Gross galerie, 2007). 

Overlapping motifs and leading multifaceted interpretations, Mikhailov hung social issues and living situations are disguised. The montage of images of opposing meanings reveal "contradictions and ambivalences in Russia in general" with layered "motifs featuring shots of surfaces that have been exploded or are crumbling is symptomatic for the collapse of Soviet society" (Barbara Gross galerie, 2007).

Looking back, Mikhailov notes that it was a period of "hidden meanings and coded messages in all genres... Given the scarcity of real news, everyone was on the lookout for the smallest piece of new information, hoping to uncover a secret or read between the lines. Encryption was the only way to explore forbidden subjects such as politics, religion, nudity" (Mikhailov, in Fredrickson, 2008).

Barbara Gross Galerie (2007) "Sandwich" [Online]
Fredrickson, Lori (2008) Boris Mikhailov's Dual Reality [Online]
V&A [2012] Photographs by Boris Mikhailov. [Online]