As a 19-year-old art student Boris Sveshnikov was arrested on false charges and spent nearly ten years in a Gulag labor camp. While imprisoned he produced many images in pencil on paper: absurd, disturbing, and disorienting scenes often showing people in harsh and barren landscapes or in strange and frightening situations. Sveshnikov’s work can be seen both to mirror the brutal world of the camps, and to escape from this world into fiction. Though elements of Gulag life are clearly present, comical and mysterious scenarios force the viewer to question the reality and the meaning of what is being portrayed. Students exploring Sveshnikov’s work can be invited to consider its personal and political dimensions.
Watch minutes 12:05–26:57 of the accompanying video to learn more about Sveshnikov and his work.