“Between 1984 and 1985, when the old Soviet Union was still a harsh reality, Boris Mikhailov worked on Unfinished Dissertation. He glued his pictures of everyday life in Kharkov, Ukraine, on the back pages of an unfinished dissertation. On the margins of the pages he jotted down fragmentary thoughts, diaristic observations, quotes from books he read. They are sometimes wry, sometimes melancholy musings on Soviet society, art, and photography. Mikhailov discovers beauty amidst the dreariness and absurdity of the everyday in a provincial town in a crumbling empire. His notes are a stimulating counterpoint to the photographs: As monotonous and banal life might ever be, the human mind and its resilient will to play always offer a last refuge for the individual. Unfinished Dissertation weaves together critical thought, narrative fragments, and witty, wistful, and enigmatic sequences of images, thus creating a new genre of artist’s book.
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