A new exhibition by Russo-American artist Yevgeniy Fiks exploring homosexuality in the Soviet Union will open in New York on 5 November.
Pleshka-Birobidzhan, which comprises collage, drawing and video installation, “engages the relationship between identity, fiction, and history by recreating an oral story about a group of Soviet gay men who traveled from Moscow to Birobidzhan in 1934”. Birobidzhan, in the Russian Far East, was the capital of the newly established Soviet Jewish Autonomous Region and also, according to the oral story (or the exhibition’s fictional narrative) of the Gay and Lesbian Autonomous Region — which “appeared to exist alongside, and at times overlapped with the Soviet Jewish Utopia there”.
The exhibition depicts gay men discussing the recriminalisation of homosexuality under Stalin (it had been legalised in 1917) at pleshkas, or gay cruising sites. Disillusioned and fearing persecution, they set out for Birobidzhan. This is not the first time Fiks has addressed gay Soviet themes in his art. He catalogued the gay cruising sites in the Soviet capital in his book Moscow (2013).
Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has lived in New York since 1994. A self-described “post-Soviet artist”, his projects explore the hidden histories of the Soviet Union and address the collective amnesia in the West surrounding the Cold War period.
Pleshka-Birobidzhan runs from November 5-27 2016 at Station Independent Projects in the Lower East Side. Information about the opening can be found here.