Where is our
in ‘Zero Censorship’
Where is Our Ukrainian Body? Andriy Boyko in ‘Zero Censorship’
Every two weeks, Zaborona publishes the work of a single photographer, artist or team in a section called ‘Censorship level – zero’. It shows stories that don’t resonate with popular culture, or which are subject to censorship in the media and social networks. This issue is unusual: in it we’re publishing a series of photos by Zaborona photographer Andriy Boyko which have never been shown before; and instead of hearing from the author directly, the project is described here by our editor-in-chief Kateryna Sergatskova.
Andriy Boyko is a photographer whose focus constantly centres on the naked body. He shoots naked women and men in their own apartments, at private parties and in art workshops, places where other people rarely enter. His method revolves around continuously documenting those processes to which access is restricted by default. Whether it’s a symbolic funeral for the artist’s alter ego or a binge at a hyperlocal festival, Boyko always dissolves into such events, becoming a silent observer documenting the drama.
These photos are usually only for ‘his own people’: they’re not shown to the public. One exception, however, is ‘Knife In the Cunt’, a photo which was exhibited in Poland and caused a storm of outrage among local conservatives and the far-right. Why aren’t they exhibited more widely? Because the topic of freedom has long been taboo on the compliant territory of Ukraine, as in many other ‘young democracies’ – often due to a self-censorship which is deep-rooted at the level of institutions, and even relatively small independent groups. Bringing any taboo topic to the public’s attention always threatens the author – and his circle – with condemnation. Not because the creator is wrong, but because someone’s freedom sets a precedent for everyone else. If some people allow themselves to feel and behave as they please, then the same thing can happen to others – and the controller will lose control. That is why a cloud of morality always hangs over freedom.
For example, in Ukraine the National Commission on Morality worked in the Ukrainian parliament for many years. In 2009, the commission declared Oles Ulyanenko’s book The woman of his dreams pornographic and banned it from circulation. In 2012, the president of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Serhiy Kvit, closed an art exhibition by the Visual Culture Centre called ‘The Ukrainian body’ in a flurry of scandal, saying that “this is not an exhibition, but shit.” There were a lot of nude works in that exhibition, such as the series ‘My porn – my business’ by Anatoliy Belov.
Andriy Boyko’s documentation of naked and unfettered bodies is, in a sense, a continuation of ‘The Ukrainian body’, an exhibition that has become an endless collective work of art, or even a collective documentation of processes for which censorship served as the starting point. In the naked body there is a naked spirit, vulnerable, free and honest. Today, the safe public space for the presence of this spirit has been lost, and it has now moved into a private space: in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the squat and the workshop. Boyko the photographer has followed hard on its heels.
‘Zero Censorship’ is a platform for open dialogue on complex and taboo topics such as sexuality and physicality, stress and depression, war and identity. We don’t pay any commissions for these publications, but we do help to make the author’s statements heard, and we also participate in their design. More details here.