Dmitri Prigov, Sketch of the installation “Cleaning Woman and Angels”, 2000s. © Prigov Estate

Calvert 22 Foundation is pleased to announce the first posthumous solo presentation of Dmitri Prigov’s work in the UK. Prigov (1940–2007) was one of the leading figures of Moscow Conceptualism and is known for his varied and prolific work as a poet, performer and artist using installation, video, typewritten books and other media.

The exhibition Dmitri Prigov. Theatre of Revolutionary Action at Calvert 22 Space will reflect on the different ways theatricality and performance influenced Prigov’s oeuvre, focusing primarily on his work after the fall of the Soviet Union. Part of the The Future Remains: Revisiting Revolution season at Calvert 22 Foundation marking the centenary of 1917, the exhibition will look back on the Soviet experiment and the ways Prigov harnessed ideological, philosophical and mystical languages to address themes of chaos, change and death.

Organised in collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum, the Hermitage Foundation UK and the Dimitri Prigov Foundation, the exhibition centres around an installation based on a drawing from the museum’s collection, Cleaning Woman and Angels (2000s). The exhibition will use performativity as a way of understanding Prigov’s works and the ironic mystical world they evoke. The installation, realised in collaboration with Prigov’s son Andrei Prigov, will be in dialogue with other works including a number of the artist’s early typewritten concrete poems (recently acquired by Tate), video performances and rarely seen objects and drawings from the Prigov Foundation’s collection.

Prigov created a large number of “phantom installations” that were never realised. Cleaning Woman and Angels is part of a triptych featuring Prigov’s recurring motif, the “Cleaning Woman”, which also features in his large-format drawing on newspaper, She and the Eye (1992), also on display. The work depicts three floating angels and a kneeling cleaning woman, overseen by a large solitary eye, interpreted by many as evoking the totalising gaze of political rule or an all-seeing God.

Providing an insight into Prigov’s Soviet period and early engagement with conceptualism, his so-called stikhogramms date from 1975–1985. These typewritten visual poems play with well-known slogans, songs and titles, such as A Spectre is Haunting Europe and Heroic Times We Lived In, and deconstruct the relationship between text, object and speech.

Prigov’s interest in found images and his playful intervention in historical scenes permeates the Flowers and Palaces series (both 1992) and is present in modified photographic works such as 1907 (2002). Furthermore, video works such as The Evangelist (2007) are typical of Prigov’s later move into multimedia performance and it is these that most overtly blur the boundaries between artist, poet and performer.

The show will be complemented by a programme of events exploring Prigov’s artistic contribution within an international context, including a one-day conference in collaboration with The Courtauld Institute of Art, spoken word performances and a series of workshops looking at the broader context of revolutionary theatre and performance in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Curated by Elizaveta Butakova-Kilgarriff.

About Dmitri Prigov

Dmitri Prigov. © Prigov Estate

Dmitri Prigov was born in 1940 and was part of the circle of artists working in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s that became known as Moscow Conceptualists (including Ilya Kabakov and Erik Bulatov, amongst others). During his lifetime, Prigov was known equally as an artist and as a poet, bringing together these roles in his artistic persona of Dmitri Alexandrovich Prigov or “DAP”. This persona allowed him to adopt an “unstable” position within his poetry and art, ironizing Soviet culture in its period of decline through stagnation and Perestroika. In 1986, he was arrested by the KGB for handing out his “addresses to citizens” on the street. Until the end of his life Prigov was deeply engaged with contemporary culture, and died in 2007 on the day before a planned performance with the group Voina. The performance would have seen Prigov carried up 22 flights of stairs in the Moscow State University in a cupboard, reciting his poems along the way. Recent retrospectives of Prigov’s work include Dmitri Prigov: Dmitri Prigov, a solo retrospective organized by the State Hermitage Museum during the 45th Biennale at Ca Foscari University, Venice (2011); Dmitri Prigov: From Renaissance to Conceptualism and Beyond at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (2014); Dmitri Prigov in Dialogue with the Avant-Garde at the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg (2015) and Havel-Prigov and Czech Experimental Poetry at the Star Summer Palace, Prague (2016). His work featured in the recent exhibitions Adventures of the Black Square at Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015) and Kollektsia! at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2017). An English-language critical biography of his work is forthcoming by Mark Lipovetsky, University of Colorado.