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Dmitry Prigov 1940-2007

A Russian poet and performance artist whose work was respected in the west.

Published: July 27, 2007 (Issue # 1292)



  • Poet Dmitry Prigov died earlier this month after suffering a heart attack.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

MOSCOW Dmitry Prigov, a prolific and influential Russian poet and artist who at one point was incarcerated in a Soviet psychiatric hospital as punishment for his work, died on July 16. He was 66.

His death was reported by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which said he had collapsed in the Moscow subway earlier this month after a severe heart attack.

Prigovs creative expression took many forms. He said in 2005 that he had written nearly 36,000 poems. He also wrote plays and essays, created drawings, installations and video art, acted in films, staged performance art and performed music.

For years his verse circulated in the Soviet Union as samizdat, officially banned literature that was passed furtively hand to hand. Only in 1990, during the last stages of the Communist era, was a collection of his verse officially published in his country. His work had been published extensively abroad in ImigrI publications and Slavic studies journals.

Trained as a sculptor at the Stroganov Art Institute in Moscow, he began writing poetry in the 1950s, then worked as a municipal architect and created sculptures for parks. In the 1970s he grew close to artists in the Soviet underground and became a leader in Moscows conceptual art movement, combining his poetry with performance. He was also known for writing verse on cans.

In America there was Pop Art, said Vitaly Patsyukov, a Russian art historian and friend of Prigovs. Here it was ideology as a manifestation of mass consciousness. Patsyukov added, He turned words into objects.

At the time he was producing work considered subversive by the authorities, Prigov was stopped while walking down a street in 1986, he recalled, and was whisked away by the KGB and then to a Soviet psychiatric hospital. His stay was brief, however, after prominent poets like Bella Akhmadulina lodged protests.

In the West he was probably best known for his performance art. Rita Lipson, a senior lecturer in Russian literature and culture at Yale University, recalled Prigovs performance there. His work, she said, was a form of social protest. One of his most widely known cycles of verse is about a Soviet policeman.

Prigov, who was born in Moscow, is survived by his wife, Nadezhda, a son, Andrei, and a grandson, Georgy.

Patsyukov said Prigov had been looking forward to participating in a conference on religion and art. Contemporary artists and the Russian Orthodox Church have been increasingly at odds in Russia, and Prigov had hoped to reconcile them, Patsyukov said.

Viktor Yerofeyev, a novelist and essayist with whom Prigov worked closely, said Prigov had been a brilliant poet and created his own distinct poetic world.

In the 20th century, he said, the poetic word was torn away from life, but Dmitry Alexandrovich brought poetry closer to life, as another great poet, Pushkin, did in his day.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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