November 22, 2015 - Madre Museum - Boris Mikhailov: io non sono io (i am not i)
November 22, 2015

Madre Museum

(1) Jusepe de Ribera, San Paolo Eremita, c. 1638. Oil on canvas. Collection Alberto del Genio, Naples. (2) Boris Mikhailov, Self-Portrait, 2014. C-print. Courtesy the artist, Guido Costa Projects, Turin, Sprovieri Gallery, London & Rio de Janeiro.
Boris Mikhailov
io non sono io (i am not i)
November 14, 2015–February 1, 2016

Madre Museum
Via Settembrini, 79
80139 Naples
Italy
Hours: Wednesday–Monday 10am–7:30pm

T +39 081 1931 3016
info@madrenapoli.it

www.madrenapoli.it
Facebook / Twitter

Boris Mikhailov
io non sono io (i am not i)
November 14, 2015–February 1, 2016

Madre Museum
Via Settembrini, 79
80139 Naples
Italy
Hours: Wednesday–Monday 10am–7:30pm

T +39 081 1931 3016
info@madrenapoli.it

www.madrenapoli.it
Facebook / Twitter

Organized by the MADRE in collaboration with Incontri Internazionali d’arte and the Polo museale della Campania/Villa Pignatelli-Casa della fotografia, io non sono io (i am not i) is the first exhibition devoted by an Italian public institution to the work of Boris Mikhailov (b. 1938, Kharkov), together with the one held in fall 2015 at Camera-Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, Turin.

Mikhailov is one of the most influential contemporary photographers. Born in Ukraine, his work—begun in the 1960s while working as an engineer in a factory—was repeatedly boycotted by the Soviet regime. In his photographic series, Mikhailov investigates the far-reaching, radical, and often traumatic changes that have affected—and continue to affect—his homeland. He has said: “I think that the phenomenon I am telling the world about is post-communist and post-Soviet in its essence. Russia has always been a world of social cataclysms, and this was obvious along the entire 20th century.” But, by extension, the social disintegration that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, in terms of community structures, living conditions and impacts on individual consciences, is raised in Mikhailov’s images to a universal value capable not only of representing the contemporary identity—in its fragmentation between inclusion and exclusion, progress and marginalization, identity and displacement, migration and permanence—but also of bearing witness to the irrepressible resilience and the common ethical roots of all human beings, in any time.

The human body is often featured, uncensored in its suffering and frailty, as in the series that gives its title to the exhibition, "I Am Not I" (1992). Here the artist depicts an exhilarating sequence of actions that are both classical and mocking. The images caused a scandal when they were originally displayed, resulting in the closure of the exhibition by the Soviet police. In their poetic irony and radical sincerity, however, they present the self-portrait (a recurrent theme in the artist’s practice) of an individual who, though relegated to the margins, finds a surreal, estranging liberation in artistic expression. The exhibition at the MADRE explores the genre of the portrait and the topic of the self—hence the intimately autobiographical matrix of all Mikhailov’s research, in which the themes of the social oppression, iniquitous poverty and sheer misery, abandonment and solitude constantly oscillate between war and peace, isolation and the attempt to overcome it in relation to others. It is within this dynamic that Mikhailov turns the gaze of his camera onto the recesses of reality, searching for a common truth that, traversing the boundaries of space and time, echoes the tones of great European art, from Baroque painting to a concern for the “defeated” of 19th century painting and photography, and leading to a search for personal and civil responsibility peculiar to the historical avant-gardes of the 20th century, whose utopian and experimental impulse the artist shares. These possible references are embodied, in the Naples exhibitions, in the juxtaposition between certain of Mikhailov’s triptychs and photographs and two paintings by the Spanish artist Jusepe de Ribera (b. 1591, Xàtiva, d. 1652, Naples), respectively representing St. Paul the Hermit (c. 1638) and St. Mary of Egypt (1651).

The various series in the exhibition—including "Yesterday Sandwich" (1972–75), "Salt Lake" (1986), "By the Ground" (1991), "Football" (2000), "Superimpositions from the 60/70s" and "The Wedding" (2005)—are so many chapters of a story that opposes banality, fractures, or the grotesque aspects of history with the resilience of many individual stories, sometimes playful, sometimes merciless. In this way, the exhibition presents a gallery of portraits and self-portraits that are disturbing and yet deeply human in their urgent, universal, and even spiritual testimony of a personal and collective dignity. Different and the same in giving representation to who we are, ultimately, as creatures as well as communities. In Mikhailov’s photographs (including Self-Portrait, specially conceived for this exhibition), the colors are somber, evoking our destiny as mortal beings, yet, at the same time, the force of endurance and redemption and a constant lust for life: more than being a memento mori, these photographs are many sublime memento vivere.

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io non sono io (i am not i)
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