Natalia Fedorova on Laboratory of Poetic Actionism

Posted: Октябрь 6, 2012 in О Лаборатории

Sobjectivity translated into the post-soviet reality will read: “re-politicization of the form” as a key tendency in reanimating conceptualist ostranenie of the language from the official propaganda. History is recycling itself in the absurd Kafka-esque Pussy Riot trial that calls for the same methods today as in the Soviet times.

Frighteningly similar insipid discourse of the official media requires the rigour of conceptualist action (not accidentally Judge Surova doesn’t allow laughter in the court room, and people who laugh or smile are expelled immediately by the officers). Indeed, in the age of twitter and Facebook revolutions, an idea implemented into action, a catchy internet meme can be as important in mobilizing the human force, as military power. Laboratory of Poetry Actionism, a workshop of poets, artist and philosophers from St-Petersburg, recently became famous for the authorship of the after December parliamentary elections protests’ slogan: «Vy nas dazshe ne predstavliaete» (“You don’t even represent us/You cannot even imagine us”), alluding to both absence of representational democracy and the changes that are about to happen in Russia. According to Susan Moore, “Pussy Riot are essentially conceptual artists. This is what makes them threatening—it is not possible to imprison a concept.”

One of the main goals of the communist revolution was the establishment of equality not only between rich and poor, or between men and women, but also between subject and object. Subject-object relationship is rooted in the exchange and property. The subject-object border had to be eliminated through the “re-education” of the artwork so it would acquire a “conscience,” become a non-alienated subjectivity, a “comrade-thing.”[1] In The Communist Postscript Groys explains:

«In Soviet communism, every commodity became an ideologically relevant statement, just as in capitalism every statement becomes a commodity. One could eat communistically, house and dress oneself communistically—or likewise non-communistically, or even anti-communistically. This meant that in the Soviet Union it was in theory just as possible to protest against the shoes or eggs or sausage then available in the stores as it was to protest against the official doctrines of historical materialism.»

It probably can be said that Moscow conceptualism had to deal with already conceptualized reality. When Western conceptualism takes objects from reality and turns them into art, Moscow Conceptualism steps out into something other than art: the Soviet socialist reality.

In modern “capitalist” Russia the aim of Laboratory of Poetic Actionism is again “reverse alienation from daily routine by filling the city space with poetry”, embodying the protest energy of the left movement in slogans and poems, or slogans of poems that could become political actions as read by people in the street.

<…> In Communist Postscript Groys mentions linguistification of the society, where it is transcribed from the medium of money into the medium of language. Surrounded by texts of propaganda, Moscow conceptualists such as Erik Bulatov and Dmitry Alexandrovich Prigov used the same slogans and banners for their work.

“Vy nas daje ne predstavliaete” not only made the LPA famous, but also kindled the “Slogan” (1977), one of Moscow conceptualist’s Collective Actions,[3]which involved a red banner hung between trees on a hill in the countryside near Moscow; the slogan read: “I do not complain about anything and I almost like it here, although I have never been here before and know nothing about this place” (a quote from Andrei Monastyrski’s book Nothing Happens).

Lots of Letters is an installation re-politicizing Vsevolod Nekrasov’s poem But you know what [4] first published in 1989. Each letter of the poem is cut out of foam plastic, attached with the help of wire to the sides of trees so that the viewer can walk in the space of lines. Lots of Letters embodies topical for the present and symptomatical for the underground cultures notion of absence of representation.

<…> LPA use reflective medium of video to interpret Vsevolod Nekrasov and Andrey Monastirsky’s work can be compared to the work of translation, where the author remains the author and the translator owns something in between the languages, not fully the end result, certainly, not the original text. Owning no text but its differential qualities, the videopoet’s work nevertheless allows for the simultaneity of impression and expression.

The imagetext also requires different vreading (viewing and reading), as much as the textual installation requires wreading (walking and reading) or haptic interactive media asks for treading (touching and reading). A documented textual installation such as “” requires vreading and imagining how the wreading could feel. As Vanessa Place puts it, “that is to say, the saving grace of the promise of life after life, of Zombie poetries.”[5]

“Dotted Line Composition (with pictures)” was thought by Andrey Monastirsky as a performance, in which the guests (mostly artists) were invited to listen to the text of «Stimmung» read by the author and then, on the handed out sheets of paper, during the reading of “Pictures”(«Kartinki»), quickly draw in any style the images that reflect the text read. There was a five minute pause between readings of the “Pictures”[6], which seems to be comparable to the time it took Dina Gatina and Pavel Arseniev to arrange the scene for each shot. Andrey Monastirsky writes that this performance only took place once in December of 1973[7], but now we probably can state that it was two times at least.


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