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October 26-28 2012
Opening Reception: October 26, 2012 at 6-00 PM
Alexander Kargaltsev’s photographic project “Asylum” presented at 287 SPRING explores the lives of gay men who fled Russia for the United States due to the violence and hatred they have encountered in their motherland. For us living in New York, the idea that one could be forced to resettle across the globe only because of his or her sexual orientation may seem shocking and incomprehensible, but for many it is the reality that is so often left unnoticed.
Kargaltsev’s portraits project a striking expose of the dire situation of the LGBT community in Russia. They are arresting in their austerity and contain a poignant message of hope for a life free of fear in the New World. The artist succeeds in demonstrating the human side of the problem, in the face of the massive, painful and complex nature of the state-sponsored homophobia. The models, in their nakedness, reveal their courage in shedding many layers of fear, emerging from their harrowing past, bare and vulnerable, yet proud.
The years since the collapse of the Soviet Union – where homosexuality was criminally prosecuted -- was a time of hopes and bitter disillusionment for the Russian gays and lesbians. For a moment, it seemed that the LGBT citizens of the Russian Federation were finally visible and free of state-sponsored persecution. These hopes, however, were essentially crushed in the past decade. Numerous reports indicate that the LGBT persons living in Russia today face daily threats of violence and intimidation, while the discrimination in work place, housing, and even access to health care is ubiquitous. Instead of protecting its citizens, the Government has adopted a policy of either silently ignoring their problems or encouraging hatred and intolerance of sexual minorities in society.
In 1991, when Russia opened its borders, a great number of LGBT individuals had no other choice but to flee from the abuse and mistreatment at the hands of their fellow citizens and the authorities, especially the police. Many asylum-seekers sought refuge in the countries of Western Europe and the United States. Kargaltsev's series presents just a few of these tragic but inspiring stories, stories which often never get a chance to be told.
As VHS video tapes reach the end of their life, we are working hard to digitize all 1,000 tapes in the collections of the Leather Archives & Museum. This clip is an example of the videos we have in our collection and a representation of what we are trying to save for future generations.