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Boris Mikhailov : Time is out of joint. Photographs 1966–2011. A retrospective of the everyday, kitsch, experimentation and critique of the Soviet Union

Berlinische Galerie presents an exhibition featuring works by Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov (*25.8.1938 in Charkow) – an exhibition that is intended as an overview of the photographer's work. The exhibition encompasses the experimental output from his early years as well as the most recent projects he realised in Berlin.

Boris Mikhailov dipped his toe in the sea of photography for the first time in the late 1960s. When the Russian secret service discovered nude photographs he took of his wife, the engineer was discharged from the service due to pornography and has been focused on his photography career ever since.

He photographed groups of Soviet citizens in everyday situations, initially without inherent social criticism, which he would add to his work at a later stage. Between 1968 and 1975, he produced the 'Red Series', a colour that stood for the October Revolution in the USSR as well as the socialist structure underlying society and one could already discern early, critical elements in regards to the social conditions in the former Soviet Union in his work.

'Life was poor and people desired the better things in life. Colour photographs were far and few between, photographs in general were a rare sight. So, I began to colourise my own pictures. It's kitsch alright, but when you infuse the Soviet with kitsch, it becomes an ironic commentary. It enabled me to document a situation and decide whether or not to agree or disagree with it”, the artist explained in an interview with Arte last year.

Since his first baby steps as a photographer in the mid-1960s, Boris Mikhailov has created an impressively multi-layered opus. He gauged all the possibilities of the medium and painted a picture of his environment that is both relentless as it is witty & ironic. His never-ending dialogue with techniques of photography as well as working with various cameras and styles, but also oscillating between conceptual and documentary approaches, made him one of the most interesting artists of our time.

His 'Case History' series is dedicated to the human-felt consequences of the Soviet Union's collapse and features photographs of homeless people. Approximately 500 works show the living conditions of people, who cannot rely on social security systems any more due to the collapse of the economic and social order. His approach is often considered as exposure and shows the dark sides of Perestroika in his hometown.

'Crimean Snobbery' and 'Salt Lake' on the other hand cover the Soviet citizens' leisure time. While all the rich folks enjoy posing for the photographer, the beach by the Krim is also a place where the common people go and frolic in the water and the shore. All the while, the contaminated water of the surrounding industry plants is being pumped out into the sea through large pipes.

A scholarship from the Deutschen Akademischer Austauschdienst brought him to Berlin in 1996, where he stayed for four years, commuting between Berlin and Charkow.

Boris Mikhailov - Time is out of joint. Photographs 1966–2011

Berlinische Galerie
Alte Jakobstraße 124-128, 10969 Berlin