SIMON FOSTER

Art Directed post

Yesterday’s Sandwich

Dec 02 2012

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.

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.

Yesterday's Sandwich

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

Yesterday's Sandwich