Bortsova’s visual essay is presented in a moderate style without any political thought. Soviet Visuals takes on too many themes that the curator has no interest in and binds them together without so much as a change of gloves in between.
In the USSR, everyone is a spy. Bortsova cleverly chooses photographs that appear to suggest that they have all been taken by the same photographer. In reality, what the subjects have in common is the soviet complex of being in a compromising situation yet believing the onlooker to be the weirdo.
The subject always appears to be saying, “Go on, document the insanity. In the end, you are the one lacking respect.” And Bortsova would take off her gloves, revealing her pearly white hands, unstained by the caustic which she has applied to these various visuals.
The book is dedicated to Bortsova’s parents and is like a concession that while she may never understand the psychology of a soviet lifestyle, she can attempt to humor the notion that life is strange and beautiful whether you hail from the west, or, upon waking with a shirtless-in-the-snow tractor-sized hangover you proceed to the kitchen for fresh pickles, fish, and another beer.
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