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Tobias Zielony
Exhibition "Techno Worlds"

Tobias Zielony, Make-Up, 2017 © Tobias Zielony - courtesy of the artist and KOW, Berlin


Photography and Film

Tobias Zielony's work Maskirovka produced in Ukraine between 2016 and 2017 focuses on the underground queer and techno scene in Kyiv in the aftermath of the 2013 revolution. The term 'maskirovka' describes a tradition of Russian warfare tactics of deception. The so called "green men" that occupied Crimea and helped pro-russian forces in Eastern Ukraine were in fact Russian special forces wearing face masks to hide their identities and starting a hybrid war that was never officially declared. The recent political developments as well as the Russian interference into the country's internal affairs could be seen as sad travesty in which everything is possible but nothing seems to be real. All levels of life are compromised into a situation in which there is no right or wrong anymore.

In addition to the forty-two photographs in the Maskirovka series, 10 of which are being shown in the TECHNO WORLDS exhibition, Tobias Zielony´s stay in Kyiv resulted in an animated film with the same title for which Zielony assembled 5,400 individual images from his camera. Pictures from the club, from the street, from Maidan and the many news reports about Kyiv and the action on the frontline, captured on television screens. The film is divided into two visual planes for its entire duration, alternating between them five times per second. Intercutting the memory of pictures that have only just faded away with new ones pressing in on the viewer, the stroboscopic flickering image weaves a nervous quilt of short-lived impressions. It is the culmination of Tobias Zielony’s contemporary narrative on the many-faced reality of Ukraine today and the conflicting claims of diverse actors struggling to occupy the country’s contested symbolic and political space and dominate its representation. Pictures, suggestions, masquerade are part and parcel of war. And, no less importantly, of peaceful resistance.


Tobias Zielony, born in Wuppertal lives and works in Berlin. He studied Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport and artistic photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. Tobias Zielony is known for his photographic depiction of youth culture. For his first book project “Behind the Block” (2004) he extended his research to a total of four European cities to observe adolescents in public spaces often during night times. Themes and social realities his research touches upon include structural change, migration and drug abuse, as well as sexwork. His critical approach to documentarism manifests in a specific aesthetic and relationship with fiction. People are often portrayed in a casual fashion that is sensitive of the visual language, gestures and poses a person uses to set their stage. His work “The Citizen” was shown at the 56th Venice Biennale. He had group shows for example at Bozar Center for Fine Arts, Brussels (2015) and the 1st Riga Biennial (2018) and solo shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2011) and Folkwang Museum Essen (2021).