Fotomuseum Winterthur

FOTOMUSEUM WINTERTHUR | Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH - 8400 Winterthur

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press release

Five years on from our retrospective exhibition of Ukrainian artist Boris Mikhailov (in 2003) the Fotomuseum Winterthur now presents another leading Russian-Ukrainian artist of the next generation: Sergey Bratkov. The exhibition includes some 130 works, giving a deep insight into Bratkov’s photographic oeuvre since 1990. Socially critical, politically motivated and yet with a lyrical edge, his photographs are a direct and at times unsparing portrayal of everyday life since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The bulk of Sergey Bratkov’s work was created during those years of unbridled confusion at the loss of a previously stable world order, and the promise of a better, freer, more individualized future. The wild, even lurid, photographs, picture cycles and videos, verging at times on the limits of good taste, form the expressive core of his prodigious and extensive output. Bratkov works in the media of photography and video, whereby it is not so much the camera itself that stakes out the communicative framework as Bratkov’s own insatiable curiosity about the individuals he encounters, with whom he engages both personally and with an eye for their social conditions.

Following an exceptionally productive period around 2000/2001, in which he created such important cycles of portraits as Kids or Soldiers, Fighters Without Rules, Secretaries, and the Army Girls, Bratkov has more recently concentrated primarily on panoramic photography. In contrast to his portraits, which are based on a more or less open agreement between photographer and sitter, the horizontal scanning of the outside world in the My Moscow cycle (2003), appears like a documentary construct, a panopticum of unhierarchically juxtaposed social and historical phenomena.

Bratkov, who was born in 1960 in the Ukrainian industrial city of Kharkov, lays bare the obsolete ideological clichés of the Soviet era and the newfound muscle-flexing capitalist drive of the east in scenes that occasionally evoke a strident theatre of the new reality. His documentary portraits of steelworkers (Steelworkers, 2003), homeless children (Glue Sniffers, 2000), or women who want to start a family (Princess, 1996) cite the hallmarks of nationalistic socialism by ostensibly classifying individuals in stereotype images. But what Sergey Bratkov seeks in his portraiture is not the conformity of the group, behind which the individual might be able to hide. Instead, his photographs launch a provocative jibe at post-Soviet society by deliberately flouting aesthetic and moral taboos. By heightening the scenes he observes with irony and subjectivity, Sergey Bratkov invents a new form of Socialist Realism in his photographs, unmasking critical socialism as fictitious and ideologically defunct. The exhibition is curated by Thomas Seelig.

Main sponsor: Vontobel Foundation Additional support by the Stiftung Art Progressive

Publication: Sergey Bratkov – Glory Days / Heldenzeiten (in English/German), published by Verlag Scheidegger&Spiess, Zurich. With texts by Boris Buden, Bart de Baere, Thomas Seelig, and an interview with Sergey Bratkov by Mikhail Ryklin and Anna Alchuk. 192 pages, 91 colour and b/w illustrations, format 20.5x26.5 cm, Hardcover.

Biography: Sergey Bratkov, born 1960 in Kharkov, Ukraine, has been living in Moscow since 2000. Together with Boris Mikhailov and Sergey Solonsky he formed the Fast Reaction Group from 1994–1997. In 2002 he took part in the 25th San Paolo Biennale, São Paolo. Last year, he was represented in the Ukrainian pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. His solo exhibitions include Faust and Margherita, Center for Contemporary Art, Kiev, 2003; S.M.A.K., Ghent, 2005; Part of my Life, Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2006; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2007. Sergey Bratkov is represented by Regina Gallery, Moscow.

Sergej Bratkow
Glory Days
Kurator: Thomas Seelig