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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

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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