Yevgeniy Fiks, “Moscow: Gay Cruising Sites of the Soviet Capital, 1920s–1980s”

Exhibit Opening. Moscow: Gay Cruising Sites of the Soviet Capital, 1920s–1980s
Wednesday, September 4, 2019, 6:00 pm
Harriman Institute Atrium (12th floor, 420 W 118th St., New York), Harriman Institute, Columbia University

Please join the Harriman Institute for the opening reception of the exhibit Moscow: Gay Cruising Sites of the Soviet Capital, 1920s -1980s featuring a series of works photographed in 2008 by artist Yevgeniy Fiks.

The exhibit runs September 3–October 18, 2019. Exhibit hours are Monday–Friday, 9:30 am–5:00 pm, excluding university holidays.

The exhibit documents gay cruising sites in Soviet Moscow, from the early 1920s to the USSR’s dissolution in the early 1990s. Photographed in 2008 in a simple but haunting documentary style, these sites of the bygone queer underground present a hidden and forgotten Moscow, with a particular focus on revolutionary communist and Soviet state sites appropriated by queer Muscovites.

This opening reception will feature a performative reading by actor Chris Dunlop of the 1934 letter to Joseph Stalin by the British Communist and Moscow resident Harry Whyte, in which he attempts to defend homosexuality from a Marxist-Leninist perspective in the face of the campaign of mass arrests that swept Moscow and Leningrad gay circles from 1933 to 1934. After reading the letter, Stalin wrote “idiot and degenerate” in the margins. The letter, which remained unanswered, was kept in the closed Soviet archives until 1990 and translated into English by Thomas Campbell for publication in Fiks’s Moscow (Ugly Duckling Presse).

Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. He has produced many projects on the subject of the post-Soviet dialogue in the west. His work has been shown internationally and has been included in the Biennale of Sydney (2008), Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011), and Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2015).

Text and images courtesy of the Harriman Institute

mister deviant

Mister Deviant, Comrade Degenerate: Selected Works by Yevgeniy Fiks
June 15, 2019–July 31, 2019
Voorhees Gallery (Entrance)

Within the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, political, sexual, and artistic nonconformists were conflated and viewed as dangerous internal enemies that terrified the insecure and paranoid governments and societies. The political deviant, the sexual outlaw, and the uncensored artist became the shared “others” for the Cold War-era Soviets and Americans, a problematic political legacy that still resonates today.

This exhibition offers a lesson in history for twenty-first-century societies and confronts the instrumentalization of homophobia, anti-liberalism, and anti-modernism as tools of propaganda and ideology in both the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War—providing a learning tool through which we can critically examine contemporary developments in world politics and societies. It explores the Cold War era’s persecution of various nonconformist groups on both sides of the ideological divide, including political dissidents, queers, and avant-garde artists, who remain targets of contemporary witch hunts all over the world.

Ranging from dry factuality to humor and farce, the exhibition begins with a series of prints and photographs titled “Homosexuality is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America,” highlighting the interlocking histories of the “Red” and “Lavender” scares during the McCarthy era in the United States, when anti-Soviet and anti-gay sentiments were fused together in the Cold War witch hunt rhetoric. Pundits and government officials went as far as envisioning a sinister conspiracy: the Soviet Union is promoting homosexuality as a tool to destroy America. At the same time, the federal government purged homosexuals that it employed, calling them “security risks”—vulnerable of being blackmailed by Soviet agents into working for them. Ironically, in the Soviet Union, the ideological enemy of the United States, homosexuality was officially criminalized after 1934—with a prison sentence of up to five years—and stigmatized and tabooed as an anti-Soviet “capitalist degeneracy” that comes from the foreign and “decadent West.”

Born in Moscow in 1972, Fiks moved to New York in 1994. Since then, his multifaceted practice has bridged both worlds, exploring themes of memory, repression, and the legacy of the political Left in Russian society and the United States. Fiks’s engagement across time periods resonates strongly with the Zimmerli’s commitment to contemporary issues in art and its rich collection of Russian art from the Soviet period, as found in the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union.

Organized by Thomas Sokolowski, Director of the Zimmerli Art Museum

Yevgeniy Fiks: Mother Tongue (London)

 

unnamedYevgeniy Fiks, Still from the video Thematic Language, 2018

MOTHER TONGUE by Yevgeniy Fiks

9 March—11 May 2019

Private view, 8 March 2019, 7:00–8:30 pm

Panel Discussion, 8 March 2019, 6:00–7:00 pm with Yevgeniy Fiks, Juliet Jacques, Sarah Wilson, and Dan Healey 

BOOK HERE

Pushkin House, 5A Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1A 2TA | Free Entry

Exhibition opening hours
Thursday, Friday, 11:00 am–5:00 pm
Saturday, 1:00 pm–6:00 pm

Press Release PDF

Grad and Pushkin House are proud to present Mother Tongue/Родная Речь, the first London solo exhibition by New York-based Russian artist Yevgeniy Fiks, exploring historical gay Russian argot or slang. This coded language dates back to Soviet times and can be compared to Britain’s polari, the jargon used in the past by gay and other subcultures.

Through this exhibition Fiks elevates this themed language into a poetic code, celebrating its wit and nuance. Mother Tongue/Родная Речь reclaims and celebrates Soviet-era Russian gay argot as a unique cultural phenomenon and gives a historical context to today’s post-Soviet LGBTQ community whose language partially evolved from it.

The exhibition takes the form of an installation, recreating the environment of a classroom, equipped with a blackboard, alphabet charts, texts books, and a language instructional video, designed as formal introduction to the vocabulary and usage of the argot.

Soviet era pleshki or cruising sites are presented in a series of photographs of Moscow, many of them famous tourist destinations, devoid of people and subverting standard perceptions of the city.

Fiks envisions the language of the pleshka as a complete and distinct language, separate from standard Russian. A semi-humorous instructional video gives a lesson in how to use and construct phrases from this themed language. Like polari, Soviet gay slang contributed to the sense of the separate identity of queer communities of the time, and allowed users to communicate openly about things that could have seen them excluded from mainstream society, or even imprisoned. Thus it was a defence mechanism that provided safety.

The exhibition is accompanied by the recently published Mother Tongue/Родная Речь, a book by Fiks, both about, and written in, Soviet-era Russian gay argot. In the book, this is conceptualised as a literary language fit for the production of high culture, including written literature. The book includes a linguistic introduction to Soviet-era Russian gay argot and a collection of conceptual poetry written by Fiks in that language.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the globalisation era in the 1990s, a cosmopolitan (mostly Anglo-American) gay slang has fused with Soviet-era gay speech, and many original Russian queer terms that were used before the 1990s have been replaced with Anglo-American borrowings, diluting the unique Soviet culture of sexual and gender dissent. After decades of persecution and attempts to eradicate sexual and gender non-conformity, male homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993. The period between 1993 and around 2013 was characterised by slow and difficult improvements to the conditions of gay life in Russian. This modest progress was interrupted, and is in the process of being reversed, with the introduction in 2013 of the so-called gay propaganda law, which ushered in a new wave of state and social homophobia. At the same time it led to LGBTQ issues in Russia becoming central to public debate in an unprecedented way.

Artist’s statement by Yevgeniy Fiks
I define my position, as a post-Soviet artist, as having the responsibility to raise a proper understanding and critical reflection of Soviet history in order for post-Soviet societies to move forward. My works are based on historical research, usually of forgotten and unresolved 20th century micro-historical narratives. Some of these topics include the shared histories of the Red and Lavender scares during the McCarthy era in the USA; communism in modern art; Soviet LGBT history, and the African, African American, and Jewish diasporas in the Soviet Union.

About the artist
Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972, and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced many projects on the subject of the post-Soviet dialogue in the west, among them: Lenin for Your Library? in which he mailed Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism to one hundred global corporations as a donation to their corporate libraries; Communist Party USA, a series of portraits of current members of Communist Party USA, painted from life in the Party’s national headquarters in New York City; and Communist Guide to New York City, a series of photographs of buildings and public places in New York City that are connected to the history of the American Communist movement. Fiks’s work has been shown internationally, including exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman Gallery and Postmasters Gallery in New York, Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City; and Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon. His work has been featured at the 2008 Biennale of Sydney, the 2011 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art , and the 2015 Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art.

About Pushkin House
Pushkin House is an independent arts charity specialising in Russian culture. Our programme encourages open-minded, explorative discussion. It was founded in 1954 by two generations of émigré Russians, to create a welcoming meeting place for the enjoyment, understanding and promotion of Russian culture in all its forms, and for the exchange of views in a lively, informal atmosphere, with freedom of speech a core principle.

About Grad
Since opening its first base in 2013 at London’s Fitzrovia, Grad has operated as a Kunsthalle, a platform and forum for debate while researching, curating, commissioning, and producing over a hundred critically-acclaimed projects. Equally known for its historical shows and contemporary exhibitions exploring urgent social realities, Grad instigates intellectual inquiry and builds connections amongst artists, individuals, and communities from different continents and cultures. Grad challenges cultural bias and preconceptions, and champions an experimental, interdisciplinary approach with a focus on new media and technologies.

Press contacts
Ksenia Afonina, ksenia.afonina@grad-london.com, 020 7637 7274, info@grad-london.com

 

Yevgeniy Fiks: Yiddish Cosmos

yiddish cosmos-banner

הימל און ערד

Himl un erd

Yiddish Cosmos

An exhibition by Yevgeniy Fiks
Sunday, November 18–Sunday, December 16, 2018

Opening Reception
Sunday, November 18th, 6–9pm

Music by Miryem-Khaye Seigel and Ilya Shneyveys at 7:30 pm

*RSVP here for the opening*

Produced by Victoria Anesh and Mordecai Walfish

For more information, contact Victoria Anesh at victoria.anesh@gmail.com or 917-498-7987.

The exhibit will be open to the public Sundays, 1–6pm, and Mondays & Wednesdays, 4–7 pm, November 18–December 16.

Special artist-led exhibition tour on Sunday, December 16th, at 4pm.

Address
Stanton Street Shul
180 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002

What does the Soviet space program have to do with Yiddish culture?
Multidisciplinary artist Yevgeniy Fiks presents Heaven and Earth (Yiddish Cosmos), an exhibition that uncovers the surprising connections between the Eastern European Jewish experience, futurist utopianism, and the Soviet space program. In this exhibition, Fiks forges a speculative narrative of Yiddish culture based on ideas of daring imagination, universality, and scientific progress.

Mixing fact and fiction, Yiddish Cosmos evokes 20th century futuristic utopianism and the practical achievements of space science from an Eastern European Jewish perspective. Artist Yevgeniy Fiks speculates on the idea of the cosmos and how in the Soviet context it would become the epitome of the homeland for a diasporic people. If the 20th-century Eastern European Jewish narrative is one of longing for universalism and scientific progress, it is cosmos as a “homeland” that most perfectly embraces those dreams.

Featuring works on paper, objects, and archival materials, Fiks uses this exhibition to explore real and imaginary connections between an invented language of interplanetary communication and the Yiddish language, all the while juxtaposing the Soviet space program’s imagery with Soviet Jewish community and Yiddish culture.

About the artist
Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972, and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced numerous projects on the subject of the post-Soviet dialogue in the west. Fiks’s work has been shown internationally. This includes exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman Gallery and Postmasters Gallery (New York), Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon.

About the exhibition site
Stanton Street Shul is one of the few tenement shuls still left of the 700 LES congregations. Stanton Street Shul is the first American home of Congregation Bnai Jacob Anshe Brzezan (“Sons of Jacob, People of Brzezan”). Incorporated in 1893, the community of Jewish immigrants from the town of Brzezan in Southeast Galicia, (formerly Austria-Hungary, then Poland, now Ukraine), created their place of worship from an existing structure on the site in 1913, within a thriving Lower East Side Jewish community. The shul has since changed with the neighborhood, but has struggled to preserve its old country roots.

Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy (Exhibition)

International Print Center New York presents
Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy
October 12–December 16, 2017
Reception: Thursday, October 12 at 6 PM. Press and Members’ Preview at 5 PM

klucisesperanto

Images: Left, Gustav Klucis, First of May: Day of the International Proletarian Solidarity, 1930. Lithograph, 41 1/4 x 29 ¼ in. The Museum of Modern Art, Purchase Fund Jan Tschichold Collection, 1937. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art, licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. Right, Anton Ginzburg. Esperanto​​​​​​​ poster from the Meta-Constructivism poster series, 2016. 36 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist. Image © 2017 Anton Ginzburg.

(New York, NY – September 25, 2017) International Print Center New York (IPCNY) is pleased to present Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy. Commemorating the centennial of the 1917 Russian Revolution, this scholarly exhibition looks beyond the canon of the Russian avant-garde to focus on three avenues of individual freedoms sought by the fledgling socialist society: the equality and emancipation of women; internationalism, including racial equality and the rights of ethnic minorities in Russia, especially Jews; and sexual and gay liberation. By placing a selection of historical printed works by key Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920s and 1930s in dialogue with contemporary works by Russian-born, New York-based artists Yevgeniy Fiks and Anton Ginzburg, the exhibition evaluates these often-obscured goals of the Revolution and addresses their continued urgency today — in Russia, the United States, and elsewhere. The contemporary works on view prioritize the agency of Russian-born people to speak about Soviet history as personal history, and to address the Revolution’s legacy in all its complexity.

Read the full press release here.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive brochure designed by Anton Ginzburg and published by IPCNY, featuring an essay by curator Masha Chlenova, as well as an illustrated chronology by Chlenova and Yevgeniy Fiks and a bibliography providing further historical context for the material on view.

In-depth public programming will coincide with New York Print Week and continue throughout the fall season. These will include workshops and performances by Yevgeniy Fiks, and an academic conference bringing together scholars of Soviet modernism to discuss the three themes detailed above.

fikslissitsky

Images: Left, Yevgeniy Fiks, Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, 2015. Screenprint, 33 x 39 in. Edition: 18. Published by Eminence Grise Editions/Michael Steinberg Fine Art. Collection of Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson. Image © 2017 Yevgeniy Fiks. Right: El Lissitzky, Chad Gadya, 1922. Letterpress, 8 1/4 x 10 in. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Jan Tschichold Collection, Gift of Philip Johnson, 1977. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art, licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

PUBLIC PROGRAMS

Friday, October 27, 2017 at 3:00pm at IFPDA Print Fair: Curator Masha Chlenova will give a lecture entitled “Embattled Images: Print Culture in the Russian Revolution,” followed by a Q&A session. Tickets at http://www.printfair.com/.

Saturday, October 28, 2017, 1:00–4:00pm at 524 West 26th Street, Ground Floor: Exhibiting artist Yevgeniy Fiks, working with Bushwick Print Lab, will lead “Obama, Trump, and the Russian Revolution,” a poster-making workshop exploring the use of re-purposed Russian Revolutionary imagery to satirize contemporary American politicians. Using a selection of thematic imagery, participants will let their political subconscious run loose to reveal what philosopher Boris Groys defined as “Russia as the West’s subconscious.” Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017, 6:45pm and 9pm at Anthology Film Archives: “Show & Tell: Anton Ginzburg.” Two screenings of exhibiting artist Anton Ginzburg’s short films, each followed by Q&A sessions. Tickets at http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/.

Thursday, November 30, 2017, 6:00–8:00pm at IPCNY: “Lily Golden, Harry Haywood, Langston Hughes, Yelena Khanga, Claude McKay, Paul Robeson, Robert Robinson on Soviet Jews” (2017). A performative reading organized by Yevgeniy Fiks which traces the history of the Jewish community in the Soviet Union between the 1920s and 1980s via memoirs of Soviet citizens of African American decent and African Americans who resided in or visited the USSR. Free and open to the public.

Friday, December 1, 2017, all day, at Columbia University: In collaboration with the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, curator Masha Chlenova and Harriman Postdoctoral Research Scholar Maria Ratanova have organized an academic conference where leading scholars of Soviet modernism will address key topics of the exhibition, while Chlenova, Fiks and Ginzburg will discuss responsibility towards Russian revolutionary history and its legacy in a round-table. Program to be announced by the Harriman Institute at http://www.harriman.columbia.edu.

For further information, please visit http://www.ipcny.org/russianrevolution.

ABOUT IPCNY

International Print Center New York (IPCNY) is New York’s flagship non-profit arts institution dedicated to the innovative presentation of prints by emerging, established, national, and international artists. Founded in 2000, the print center is a vibrant hub and exhibition space located in New York’s Chelsea gallery district. IPCNY’s artist-centered approach engages the medium in all its varied potential, and includes guest-curated exhibitions that present dynamic, new scholarship as well as biannual New Prints open-call exhibitions for work created in the last twelve months. A lively array of public programs engages audiences more deeply with the works on display. A 501(c)(3) institution, IPCNY depends on foundation, government, and individual support, as well as members’ contributions to fund its program s.

CREDITS

Russian Revolution: A Contested Legacy is supported, in part, by The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation and by Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson. Special thanks to the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

Support for all programs and exhibitions at IPCNY is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; by Foundations including Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Jockey Hollow Foundation, The Thompson Family Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the Milton & Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Inc., and the Sweatt Foundation along with major individual support. The PECO Foundation supports IPCNY’s exhibitions this season. The New Prints Program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and, in part, by the Areté Foundation.

Thanks to Zhenya Fiks for the heads-up

In Edenia, a City of the Future

‎אין דער צוקונפֿט־שטאָט עדעניאַ
In Edenia, a City of the Future
Yermilov Center, Kharkiv
June 8–July 9, 2017

In Edenia, a City of the Future is an art exhibition inspired by the eponymous Yiddish-language utopian novella, published by Kalman Zingman in Kharkiv in 1918. Nearly one hundred years later, artist Yevgeniy Fiks has invited an international group of contemporary artists to read the novella and create artworks as if they were from the museum of the imaginary city of Edenia. The artists’ different visions are an invitation to look at our dreams from various angles, to take note of their colors, intonations, forms and rhythms.

Zingman’s Edenia (a projection of Kharkiv twenty-five years in the future) is serviced by “airbuses” and fountains that keep the temperature at a comfortable level year-round; it is a place where ethnic communities live side by side in peace and harmony. The protagonist of the story, returned to his native city from Palestine, makes a stop in the art museum: “He […] looked at the sculptures of Kritsenshteyn, Lisitski and Roza Fayngold, then he went to the top level. The door closed behind him, and he looked for a very long time, thought for a long time, and got lost in his ruminations.”

At a time when many Ukrainians are divided in their respective idealizations of the Soviet past as a golden era of social justice or the European Union as the promise of a future utopia, In Edenia, a City of the Future (based on a novella written in a language that has practically disappeared from Ukraine) invites the public to examine the country’s multicultural history and its early Soviet dreams and nightmares in light of present-day political challenges and potentialities. We urge visitors to think critically about the appeal and comfort of a utopian dream, while simultaneously remembering past actions taken in the name of making an ideal image of society a reality. How many of these dreams and arguments are we still repeating today?

At the same time, we acknowledge the utopian nature of the very project of 21st-century contemporary art, where visibility (as revelation) has come to replace the visionary projects of the past.

Curators: Larissa Babij (Ukraine/US) and Yevgeniy Fiks (US/Russia)

Participating Artists:
Ifeoma Anyaeji (Nigeria)
Babi Badalov (France/Azerbaijan)
Concrete Dates Collective (Ukraine)
Curandi Katz (Italy/Canada)
Sasha Dedos (Ukraine)
Aikaterini Gegisian (UK/Greece)
Tatiana Grigorenko (US/France)
Creolex centr (Ruthie Jenrbekova & Maria Vilkovisky) (Kazakhstan)
Nikita Kadan (Ukraine)
Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada/France)
Yuri Leiderman (Ukraine Germany)
Mykola Ridnyi (Ukraine)
Haim Sokol (Russia/Israel)
Agnès Thurnauer (France/Switzerland)

Exhibition designer: Ivan Melnychuk (Ukraine)
Publishing partner: STAB (School of Theory and Activism Bishkek) (Kyrgyzstan)

Supported by Asylum Arts
Special thanks to Dr. Gennadiy Estraikh

About the Curators
Yevgeniy Fiks is a Russian-American artist, who has been living and working in New York since 1994. His artistic practice, which includes making artworks, exhibitions, and books, often seeks out and explores repressed microhistorical narratives that highlight the complex relationships between social histories of the West and the Soviet bloc in the 20th century. To learn more, please see http://yevgeniyfiks.com.

Larissa Babij grew up in the US and has been living and working in Kyiv as an independent curator, writer and translator since 2005. Her work focuses on representing Ukrainian contemporary artists in the English-speaking world, organizing contemporary art projects (usually in collaboration with artists) in Ukraine, and critically discussing current cultural conditions.

Yermilov Center
Freedom Square, 4
Kharkiv, Ukraine
Tel: +380 95 801 30 83, +380 57 760 47 13
www.yermilovcentre.org
Open Tuesdays–Sundays, 12.00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.

The exhibition will involve several public events, including guided tours with the exhibition curators, meetings with participating artists, and talks by historians specializing in early Soviet Ukrainian history. Please see www.yermilovcentre.org for details.

*****

A short excerpt from the translation of novella, as kindly supplied to me by Mr. Fiks.

“Where then do you hide the corpses? Or has the Angel of Death discovered another way?”

“Don’t laugh, my friend. For years, our Medical Institute has been conducting tests on rabbits and other animals that have died or been killed, squirting serum into their noses and bringing them back to life. And the Director of the Institute, Professor Rabinovitch, writes in the journal Health that it is possible that very shortly we will be able to insert a new soul into a person who died of old age and bring him back to life. But for now it is still a medical experiment. Yet you asked where we hide the corpses that have died. And I will answer you. Once we’re in the Green Garden, you will see a 40-story building, the Crematorium. There the corpses are cremated, and the ashes of each one are given a separate number and a box. In addition, very few young people die here. Life is so well ordered that one only dies of old age, of weakness, and not as it used to be, from accidents when young. The older generation dies. There has not been a war for the last twenty-one years. The young people only know the term war from history class in school. The other classes are concerned with guarding their health. In the upper grades, both boys and girls learn about sex, not as they did in our time when they went through all the swamps of life before they got married. Here, in our times, no one knows what the swamps of life are. In addition to natural science, a schoolgirl studies history, literature, culinary arts, sex education, and child-rearing. And if you were to see our young mothers—that is, our children! They are completely different from the children of the past, who used to know life, intimate life, only from the pornographic novels they furtively read.”

Translated by Khane-Faygl Turtletaub