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I Escaped Queer Censorship in Putin's Russia. Trump's America Is Just as Bad.
On December 17th, Tumblr activated their new censorship policy, banning all explicit content from a site that many artists used as a means to distribute their work and connect with both fans and other creators. One of those artists is Slava Mogutin, who worries about the impact this ban will have on queer art.
"For me, the personal is political and the political is personal," Mogutin said in a statement. "At a time when our fundamental constitutional rights are under attack, I believe that queer imagery can serve as the most effective weapon against hypocrisy, bigotry, and censorship. When they censor my work either on social media or in real life, my response is always double up on the queer, double up on the fight and what they don't want to see. 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, because being different is a blessing, not a curse."
Mogutin curated an exhibition of his work with the Tom of Finland Store -- as well as a run of signed, limited-edition prints -- as a response to censorship across social media. (Tom of Finland posted an Instagram yesterday encouraging its followers to leave Tumblr altogether.) Read on to see work from the exhibition, some of which has never before been released.
"My Tumblr is a virtual diary where I document my travels and artwork. I posted a lot of content on Tumblr that was previously censored on Facebook and Instagram. Before Tumblr, I had a blog named Pinko Commie Fag Blog on Blogspot, where I was featuring the work of emerging queer artists. It was more of a curatorial project that lasted for over 5 years. I left Blogspot because of censorship, and now Tumblr is the latest casualty of this corporate takeover of social media."
"I was exiled from Russia for my queer activism and journalism, but I've been censored in America just as much as in my native country. A lot of my work deals with issues that make me a constant target for censors and trolls, and my art is a direct response to homophobic censorship, bigotry, and hatred that are just as prevalent in Trump's America as in Putin's Russia."
"For over ten years, Tumblr was the most liberal platform that was largely free of censorship and it became the main destination for the fetish and queer community that was marginalized and banned on other social media platforms. Most of my artist friends are, or were, on Tumblr not just for sharing their own work, but also for using it as an aspiration material, a sort of visual mood board."
"In XXX Files, I wanted to showcase the work that celebrates the male form and sexuality without fear of being censored by the virtual moral police. Many images in XXX Files have been taken down, and it would be hard to imagine most of them shown in traditional art venues. When the news broke about Tumblr imposing this new policy, Tom of Finland store invited me to create this online exhibition as a way of protest and defiance against censorship, but also as a way creating a welcoming, safe-haven platform for other queer artists. "
"I think the attitude towards porn indicates general political and cultural climate in the society. What we're witnessing now on social media is a corporate takeover of our lives, brains, and bodies. It's this censorship monster that employs bullies and trolls to police our community while harvesting our data and selling it to the highest bidder. I know so many queer artists whose work is being routinely censored online. I feel like we're way overdue for a new, queer-friendly alternative to the existing monopoly on social media--members only, subscription-based platform for adults that provides safe virtual space for queer art and expression."
"It's no coincidence that all modern-time dictators and oppressive regimes use homophobia as one of their tools of choice, with homosexuality and any forms of queer expression still being banned in nearly 80 countries around the world. When queer art is being censored online by the US-based corporate entities, it puts us on the same level with those oppressive regimes. This has to change, and it's up to us to make it happen."