Dmitri Prigov



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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Dmitri Prigov 1940–2007
Ink, offset print and tape on paper
Support: 228 × 258 mm
Presented by Andrey Prigov 2015


This is one of four works in Tate’s collection from the series Scotch Tape Drawings which numbers twenty-nine works in total. They were all produced between 1999 and 2002 by drawing with ballpoint pen on a printed magazine reproduction of a photograph dating from the early twentieth century. A year, perhaps the year the photograph was taken, has been added in the background of each appropriated image as negative space surrounded by cross-hatching in black ink. The Scotch Tape Drawings have been further modified by the application of several overlapping strips of transparent adhesive tape. Each strip stretches from a fixed point near the centre of the image to the edge of the composition, together forming a spiral or vortex that covers the image. Prigov often used hatching and cross-hatching techniques as well as the addition of tape to create dense textures around or on top of words or images. The addition of these auras or haloes appears to give them a mystical or spiritual force, although Prigov rejected such allusions, stating that ‘“the sacral stuff”, “the spiritual stuff” – we used these exclusively as derogatory ironic terms’ (quoted in Svetlyakov 2014, p.9). In 1919 The Lady 1999 (Tate T14443) Prigov has used the same cross-hatching technique to insert the word ‘dama’ (Russian for ‘lady’), into the space behind the image of an aristocratic woman. Prigov used a similar process to produce the series Drawings on Newspapers c.1987–9 (Tate T14447T14450) and Drawings on Reproductions: Avant-Garde c.2004 (Tate T14432T14437). As with many of the artist’s pieces, these drawings are displayed unframed to retain an informal quality, and can be shown either individually or in groups.

In the 1970s and 1980s Prigov was one of the core group of first-generation nonconformist artists in Soviet Russia. He was a pioneer of Russian performance art and a cult figure in Moscow’s underground art community. Although trained as a sculptor, he was also a prolific poet, novelist and playwright. The intricate relationship between image and text that is a key feature of Moscow conceptualism is especially prevalent in Prigov’s work. He referred to himself as ‘a worker, a labourer … both in the literary realm and that of visual art, on the border between them’, and explained: ‘In my works I attempt to unite these two realms’ (quoted in Günter Hirt and Sascha Wonders, ‘Dmitri A. Prigov: Textual Manipulator’, in Degot 2008, p.142). Prior to the increased openness and transparency in Russian institutions resulting from the policy of glasnost (openness) in the late 1980s, Prigov’s poems were circulated as ‘samizdat’ – hand-produced copies of censored publications passed secretly from reader to reader. From 1971 he also gave ‘performance-readings’ at unofficial exhibitions held in the private apartments and studios of artists including Ilya Kabakov and Andrei Monastyrski. In 1986, after his performances came to the attention of the Russian security services, the KGB, Prigov was briefly sectioned in a psychiatric hospital. A vocal campaign by artists and literary figures both in the Soviet Union and abroad secured his release. In 1988 Prigov held his first personal exhibition jointly with Boris Orlov in Chicago. The following year his work began to be officially published and exhibited in Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Prigov lived and worked between London and Moscow until his death in 2007.

The addition of the date to the photographs in the Scotch Tape Drawings reclaims their historical setting in revolutionary Russia. However, the transparent tape distorts the image, creating a dreamlike, otherworldly quality. This adds to the sense of alienation from a Russia that has ceased to exist as a result of revolutionary social changes. The series was produced between 1999 and 2002, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Prigov’s relocation to London. Yet while made in the post-Soviet era, the use of recycled items and utilitarian print materials continues to echo Prigov’s earlier nonconformist practice.

Further reading
Alla Rosenfeld and Norton T. Dodge (eds.), Nonconformist Art: The Soviet Experience, 1956–1986, New York 1995.
Ekaterina Degot (ed.), Citizens! Please Mind Yourselves!, exhibition catalogue, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, Moscow 2008, reproduced pp.105–6.
Kirill Svetlyakov (ed.), Dmitri Prigov: From Renaissance to Conceptualism and Beyond, exhibition catalogue, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow 2014, reproduced pp.80–1.

Julia Tatiana Bailey and Antonio Geusa
February 2015

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