Slava Mogutin photographs naked men as a protest against censorship
Tom of Finland Store presents Slava Mogutin: XXX Files, an online exhibition of Mogutin’s photography and video art spanning two decades.
Slava Mogutin’s photography documents queer lives around the world, with a particular focus on Russia and the US.
XXX Files is comprised of photographs from different stages of Mogutin’s career – from commissioned magazine shoots to intimate portraits and nudes of fellow artists and friends, lovers and collaborators, alongside hustlers and go-go boys.
This exhibition is Mogutin’s response to censorship across social media platforms, publishing and public venues.
We caught up with Mogutin for a behind-the-scenes look at the exhibition.
What’s been your experience of censorship on social media?
I used Tumblr for several years, after I left the Blogspot platform. I used to have Pinko Commie Flag Blog on Blogspot, where I featured many emerging queer artists – it was more of a curatorial project, but I also posted some of my work and inspiration material of queer interest.
I moved to Tumblr because of censorship. It was perhaps the most liberal platform for explicit images that were censored on other social media, which made it popular with the queer and fetish community. It was fun while it lasted.
I can’t say it was a big surprise when Tumblr decided to remove all explicit content. It’s the latest casualty in the general political and cultural trend in the US, when sterile and castrated corporate mentality is being sold as the only acceptable moral norm.
Why do explicit images have a particular power?
I believe that queer imagery – unfiltered, uncensored documentation of the queer body, sensuality, and sexuality – is an essential part of our heritage and culture in general.
We spent most of last century fighting for our rights and acceptance only to find ourselves being policed, bullied, and censored by this century’s robots, haters, and trolls.
Even some classic works of art are being banned and censored in the same way as my own art and the art of many of my peers. I believe that online censorship is un-American, unconstitutional, and dehumanising.
Is online censorship making it harder for you to reach your audience?
There’s nothing better than connecting in person and sharing your art in a physical space with a real audience, as opposed to a virtual ‘fan base’ or whatever you want to call it.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to show my work at galleries and museums around the world, but most queer artists I know don’t have that luxury. Now, it’s more urgent than ever that we create a safe platform for adult queer folks to share their ideas and work without fear of being bullied, harassed, and censored.
How is censorship influencing your work?
I was forced out of Russia because of censorship and homophobia, and my refugee and dissident background is a big part of my personal and artistic identity. When my work is being censored, I always fight back.
The goal of the virtual moral police is to silence any dissent, any radical artists and voices that refuse to bend for their bogus ‘community’ guidelines. Robots don’t fuck and never post anything sexually explicit because they’re programmed this way, but we can’t let robots and trolls control our community, our lives, minds, and art.
What do you hope that people feel when looking at the photographs in this exhibition?
Ultimately, all my work is a celebration of humanity and diversity. I want to shine light on the darkest corners of human nature and sexuality as a way to understand and peacefully coexist with each other. The XXX Files show was a good opportunity to gather together censored images from different series and stages of my photographic career. It was my statement in defiance of censorship but also an attempt to create an alternative virtual platform for other queer artists. Let them look and decide for themselves.