samizdat

Deceased Verse

Dmitri Prigov's Little Coffins

Dmitri Prigov, A little coffin of rejected verse
Dmitri Prigov, Odna tysiacha trista semʹdesiat sedʹmoi grobik otrinutykh stikhov [The one thousand three hundred and seventy-seventh little coffin of rejected verse], n.d. Paper, staples, typescript text, 14.7 x 10.5 cm. Photo courtesy of the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Reproduced with the permission of the Estate of Dmitri Prigov.

The tension between the book as individual copy and as mass reproduced object is reframed and even collapsed in samizdat literature, the illegally copied and circulated typescripts that created an entire world of literary and intellectual life in the late-Soviet period. Samizdat texts were reproduced, four or five copies at a time through the act of retyping and the use of carbon copy. In these works, the acts of writing, copying, and publishing effectively fuse.

Beginning in the 1970s, conceptual writer and artist Dmitri Prigov sought to investigate the relationship between text and copy in laboriously reproduced samizdat texts, which in spite — in fact because — of their poor quality became fetishized objects for members of the Soviet samizdat community. Prigov exploited the nature of the samizdat text to produce singular works in which the materiality of the book plays a key role. At the same time, he stressed the relationship between the writer and copyist, between unique work and reproduction in samizdat book culture.

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