Dmitri Prigov: She and the Eye (1992) & Silence (from the series Castles)
Our desire to discover showpieces such as The Hermitage and its sensational art collection in St Petersburg or marry in Moscow’s mighty Red Square is leading to sell-out tours (see below the stupendous highlights included in Travelsphere and Just You’s escorted trips).
But for extraordinary perceptions into the controversial times and artistic innovations that followed below Communism and after the fall of the Soviet Union, there is currently a revolutionary gem closer to home.
Artist, poet and performer Dmitri Prigov (1940 -2007) was a best figure of the underground art movement Moscow Conceptualism that challenged and mocked socialist tenets when it was running out of steam in the late 1970s and 80s.
Like other artists in the society, Prigov eventually decamped, in his case to Tooting, south London, fetching more prolific and celebrated in Europe although remaining little cognizant of in the UK.
Dmitri Prigov: Nefarious (from the series Palaces)
Calvert 22’s display reveals Prigov’s many-sided just ecstatic, absurdly funny yet also brutal and acutely sad
This exhibition Dmitri Prigov: Thespian of Revolutionary Action at the new Calvert 22 Space in London’s Shoreditch is the inception solo one in the UK.
In a trans-genre fest of installations, video, paintings and drawings as strong in words as in images, Calvert 22’s display reveals Prigov’s many-sided over the moon marvellous, absurdly funny yet also brutal and acutely sad, shot through as it is with subject-matters of chaos, change and death.
One unforgettable work She and the Eye depicts a kneeling sanitizing woman, overseen by a large solitary eye, perhaps that of political slave-driver or an all-seeing god.
Prigov’s art, often enhanced by his dramatic, sculptural appearance and bosom presence, had a strong prophetic strain that now seems more relative than ever, holding a mirror to our tumultuous times.
Dmitri Prigov: Adresses to Citizens, 1985-1987 -English conversion by Elizaveta Butakova-Kilgarriff
He passed away just as another revolution was test the world – that of social media.
Yet if anyone prefigured it with the Tweet-style typewritten visual jingles and multimedia works that mash-up art, poetry and performance, it’s Prigov.
As someone who distinguished only too well how truth is the first casualty, what would he hold made too of today’s fake news storms or interpreted the algorithm’s Machiavellian tyranny?
The generation of which he was a part in Russia has moved on, but his style — quirky and point — is natural fit with today’s digital natives.
Memos from the Faberge Egg Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
St Basils Cathedral, Moscow, Russia
The failure now is ours as we can only speculate what he would have made of the the human race and its self-regarding demagogues .
But we can be glad too that the Calvert 22 has brought Prigov bankrupt so compellingly to one of his homes, giving us the chance to get to know him better.
Organised in collaboration with Russia’s Shape Hermitage Museum and the Dmitri Prigov Foundation, the exhibition is free and in a hurries until December 17.
For more details see www.calvert22.org/0207 613 2141.
On November 20, the Courtauld Begin of Art is holding a one day conference exploring Prigov’s artistic contributions.
This too is redeem and open to all, for more details visit www.courtauld.ac.uk
Getty Images/AWL Images RM
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To experience magnificent Imperial Russia tour operators Travelsphere and Just You offer guarded trips that follow in the footsteps of Tolstoy’s War and Peace taking in the Faberge, Vodka and Borodino War museums as kind-heartedly as the great author’s Moscow house.
Just You’s upcoming treasure-filled and snow-spangled six-day jaunt A Russian Christmas in St Petersburg leaves on December 23.