If you’re in London at any point up until January 13th I highly recommend the Everything was Moving exhibition which is on at the Barbican Art Gallery.
Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s brings together over 400 works, some rarely seen, others recently discovered and many shown in the UK for the first time. It features 12 key figures including Bruce Davidson, William Eggleston, David Goldblatt, Graciela Iturbide, Boris Mikhailov, Sigmar Polke, Malick Sidibé, Shomei Tomatsu, and Li Zhensheng as well as important innovators whose lives were cut tragically short such as Ernest Cole, Raghubir Singh and Larry Burrows.
The entire exhibition is superb but the work of Boris Mikhilailov really stood out, so much so that I bought his book Yesterday’s Sandwich.
Boris Mikhilailov lived and worked in Kharkov at the height of the Soviet domination of the Ukraine. Photography was heavily policed by the régime. It was forbidden for photographers to make nudes (this only changed in 1986), and Mikhilailov lost his job as a mechanical engineer after the KGB found pictures of his naked wife. Mikhilailov was to develop a unique artistic approach with which to evade the censors and to satirise Soviet occupation, as well as the tenets of it’s artistic doctrine, socialist realism.
One day he inadvertently superimposed two slide transparencies and was fascinated by the resulting image. He realised that ‘Encryption was the only way to explore forbidden subjects like politics, religion and nudity.’ These radical montages, full of coded messages and an extraordinary joie de vivre, were assembled for temporary projection in artist-friends’ apartments and were only printed after the collapse of the Soviet Union