Soufiane Ababri draws inspiration from varied sources – life experience, film, history of art, pornography, activism, sport. In the Ljubljana series he wanted to explore the perception of masculinity in the post-socialist environment by intertwining a number of influences. Suprematist forms, which were emblematic of a new kind of world, beyond body and sexuality, leading up to the Russian revolution, have in recent decades become appropriated by such decisively masculine groups as Neue Slowenische Kunst. These shapes levitate over homoerotic scenes, obscuring them, as an act of violence in the history of forms. Suspension and flight are themes also to be found on the wallpaper that serves as a background to the drawings. There, in hues of pink and blue – the colours we tend to ascribe to either boys or girls –, a marker of beauty is confronted with a symbol of masculine power once again. Images of Rudolf Nureyev, the Soviet ballet dancer, who fled Russia in a dramatic alteration at Paris airport, is superimposed over the likeness of the Soviet politician Leon Trotsky. In a jump to present day is the figure of the artist himself, stepping into RAVNIKAR GALLERY SPACE, as if to suggest Ljubljana as a post-socialist space where gays and other minorities can find more safety, not least with the legacy and the continued work of Ljubljana Pride making this possible.
The title of the series, Call Me by THEIR Names, refers to the film Call Me By Your Name (2017). The romantic drama, directed by Luca Guadagnino, depicts a love affair between a dashing American scholar and a precocious adolescent boy in the idyllic Italian countryside in the mid-1980s. Both the story itself and the popularity and acclaim the film enjoyed (Oscar for best adapted screenplay) led Soufiane Ababri to recognise a division within the way gay men and other marginalised groups are allowed to exist. This notion is particularly poignant in the context of Pride, which has in many places gone from a civil rights protest to an opportunity for multinational corporations to sell their products to their newfound consumers by sticking a rainbow on it, while in other places events such as Pride are forbidden and homosexuality punishable by death. This story, this Pride, therefore, cannot belong to some – to them, according to the artist, who are discriminated, abused, insulted, suicidal, violated, exterminated, shameful, haunted.