The Russian conceptualist poet, performance and visual artist Dmitry
Prigov died last night in Moscow. Prigov has been in a coma after
suffering a massive heart attack on July 6.
Born in 1940, Prigov was one of the two poles of Russian poetry of his
generation, the other being his cultural antipode Joseph Brodsky, born
the same year. As a twentieth-century avant-gardist, Prigov was a
figure on the level of Kurt Schwitters, with similar inventiveness,
humor, interdisciplinarity, astonishing performance skills and the
ability to find beauty and truth in garbage.
Prigov became a major fixture in the Moscow art underground in the
1970s, and is recognized under the ironic title of “The Father of
Moscow Conceptualism.” A faint taste of his performance style might be
had here, where he recites
the first lines of Eugene Onegin. Although not a dissident, Prigov
managed to get himself interned in a psychiatric institution for
handing out his poems to passersby on the street in 1986. His first
book to be published in Russia came out in 1990; it was followed by
international fame and numerous awards.
I had the good luck to work with him in Italy in 1998. He was a kind,
funny, engaging person and will be greatly missed.