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Boris Mikhailov

 

Boris Mikhailov is an artist whose work cannot be understood without taking at least a brief recent history of his hometown, Kharkov, into account. This is the city where he was born in 1938, where he spent a large part of his life and to which he returns whenever he can. He now lives in Berlin after receiving a prestigious grant from the German Academic Exchange Service(DAAD) in 1996. From 1917 to 1934, Kharkov was the brilliant and prosperous capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It experienced the first signs of decline in the early 1930s as a result of the Holodomor (the Ukrainian genocide caused by Stalin’s radical transformation of economic and social structures) and of the subsequent emigration of its inhabitants in search of food and, perhaps, a better life. However, the exodus of a good part of Kharkov’s citizens was only one of the factors that contributed to its loss of importance. Kharkov suffered dozens of attacks during the Second World War before it was liberated from the Nazis on 23 August 1943. After the war, the city had to start from scratch; 70% of its buildings had been destroyed and thousands of its inhabitants had been killed, reducing it to an anonymous provincial city. However, it is now considered to be one of the main industrial, cultural and educational centres of the Ukraine, thanks to its industries, which have carried out applied research into the production of arms and turbines, and in the field of nuclear electronics and aerospace programmes. Boris Mikhailov’s rebel spirit was forged in Kharkov’s factories. It was here that he first had the opportunity to use photography as a subtle way to express his resistance to a system that did not satisfy him.

Frederic Montornès



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