RUSSIA: Grand tours and revolutionary art

RUSSIA: Grand tours and revolutionary art

Our desire to discover showpieces such as The Hermitage and its sensational art collection in St Petersburg or mingle in Moscow’s mighty Red Square is leading to sell-out tours (see below the sensational highlights included in Travelsphere and Just You’s escorted trips).



But for extraordinary insights into the controversial times and artistic innovations that followed under Communism and after the fall of the Soviet Union, there is currently a radical gem closer to home.

Artist, poet and performer Dmitri Prigov (1940 -2007) was a leading figure of the underground art movement Moscow Conceptualism that challenged and mocked socialist ideology when it was running out of steam in the late 1970s and 80s.

Like other artists in the circle, Prigov eventually decamped, in his case to Tooting, south London, becoming more prolific and celebrated in Europe although remaining little known in the UK.

This exhibition Dmitri Prigov: Theatre of Revolutionary Action at the new Calvert 22 Space in London’s Shoreditch is the first solo one in the UK.

In a trans-genre fest of installations, video, paintings and drawings as rich in words as in images, Calvert 22’s display reveals Prigov’s many-sided world, absurdly funny yet also brutal and acutely sad, shot through as it is with themes of chaos, change and death.

One unforgettable work She and the Eye depicts a kneeling cleaning woman, overseen by a large solitary eye, perhaps that of political tyrant or an all-seeing god.

Prigov’s art, often enhanced by his dramatic, sculptural appearance and personal presence, had a strong prophetic strain that now seems more relevant than ever, holding a mirror to our tumultuous times.

He passed away just as another revolution was shaking the world – that of social media.

Yet if anyone prefigured it with the Tweet-style typewritten visual poems and multimedia works that mash-up art, poetry and performance, it’s Prigov. 

As someone who knew only too well how truth is the first casualty, what would he have made too of today’s fake news storms or interpreted the algorithm’s subtle tyranny?

The generation of which he was a part in has moved on, but his style – quirky and questioning – is natural fit with today’s digital natives. 

The loss now is ours as we can only speculate what he would have made of the world and its self-regarding demagogues . 

But we can be glad too that the Calvert 22 has brought Prigov back so compellingly to one of his homes, giving us the chance to get to know him better.

Organised in collaboration with Russia’s State Hermitage Museum and the Dmitri Prigov Foundation, the exhibition is free and runs until December 17.

For more details see www.calvert22.org/0207 613 2141.

On November 20, the Courtauld Institute of Art is holding a one day conference exploring Prigov’s artistic contributions.

This too is free and open to all, for more details visit www.courtauld.ac.uk

Published at Mon, 13 Nov 2017 16:50:00 +0000

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