Deborah Kass: A New T-Shirt Capsule Puts Ukrainian Pride Front and Center

Ian Malone, VOGUE, June 29, 2022


Like so many around the world, Dorian Grinspan, founder of Out of Order magazine, watched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February with horror. As vibrant Ukrainian cities dissolved into chaos, he scoured social media platforms for ways to help.


“Eventually, word of mouth led me to UkrainePride,” Grinspan says. “These were former techno lovers and activists that just six months prior were organizing rave parties across a bustling Kharkiv. No longer.” With dizzying speed, the organization, founded in 2021 as a “a pro-patriotic queer movement,” transformed into an agency for search and rescue operations, as well as peer-to-peer assistance for everyday necessities.


To benefit UkrainePride’s urgent efforts, Out of Order has unveiled a capsule T-shirt collection in collaboration with 11 artists: Rirkrit Tiravanija, Anne Imhof, Glenn Ligon, Deborah Kass, Karl Holmqvist, Raúl de Nieves, Roni Horn, Zoe Leonard, Ugo Rondinone, Sarah Sze, and Francesco Vezzoli. The shirts, all priced at $40, are available to purchase from now until July 4.



This Pride month presents a sobering contrast between Ukrainian democracy and Russian authoritarianism. Ukraine, although a significantly more conservative place than its European neighbors, offers legal protections against discrimination for sexual minorities; thousands marched in Kyiv’s 2021 Pride parade. (This year’s edition was moved to nearby Warsaw.) During his decades in power, however, Vladimir Putin has mounted an accelerating crusade against “nontraditional sexual relationships,” with “anti-propaganda” laws forbidding any mention of gay relationships. In Chechnya, anti-gay purges have led to the murder, torture, imprisonment, and disappearance of suspected homosexuals.


“As queer Ukrainians,” says Sofiia Lapina, the cofounder and president of UkrainePride, “we also fight to stay visible so that Russian homophobic and transphobic propaganda does not enter the mainstream and erase the progress we’ve made ever since the fall of the USSR.”



“Putin’s anachronistic fever dream of a grand Russia has little real-life connection,” Swedish artist Karl Holmqvist says. His design features the text “LGBTQ +I <3 U.” The deliberate ambiguity of the plus sign and the letters themselves allows for a declaration both of love to LGBTQ+ people and of that community’s love for Ukraine.


This dual fight—for the preservation of Ukraine’s freedom and protections against anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric around the world—is at the heart of the project. As the war in Ukraine rages on, the fog of misinformation and violence threatens to obscure on-the-ground realities. For his design, Rirkrit Tiravanija printed “shine light in dark places” in black blocky letters across the front. On the back, the same phrase is written in Ukrainian.


Asked about his inspiration, Tiravanija explains: “The notion of light in dark places is about getting the truth out, from atrocities of the invading forces to the perseverance of the embattled citizens of Ukraine.”



Photography assistant: David Macke. Creative direction: Dorian Grinspan. Art direction: Solange Smith. Street casting: Jack Pierson with assistance from Matías Alvial and Brayden Jackson.





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