Dmitry Prigov ::: Biography


The problems of novel artistic experience in genetic transformations are certainly close to the principal and fundamental issues of new anthropology in general with its potential fundamental rearrangement of dramatic interaction of all the characters of a cultural operation - the author-text-place-announcement-viewer. And as far as it is possible in an attempt to approach, if not resolve, this problem in this vague situation and on our own feeble strength, we have to avoid being misled or satisfied with metaphors of this process. Otherwise, the situation may result in a well-known joke:
A Californian comes back home from Siberia and shares his experience:
- It's all different there, even anthropology.
- What do you mean?
- I went out for a walk in winter. I saw two people in the street. One of them says to the other: "Hey, Vasya, pull your hat on your pecker, or else you may get frostbite on your ears"...
That's it.
The problems of new anthropology certainly go beyond the narrow limits of art and cover the whole sphere of human existence and culture as a whole. Currently, a minor reservation is that the real limits of art are indefinable and vague. Every strategy of the 20th century was focused on the relevance of the border between the profane and the valorized, provided the stipulation of the same through the personal experience of an artist and securing the transparent and traversal status of the border in both directions.

This on-line version of the book "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture" is not full. The unabridged edition can be purchased in printed form as anthology. Requests should be sent to: (full information) or in written form: 236000, Russia, Kaliningrad, 18, Marx str., The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”. Phone requests: Kaliningrad +7(0112)216251, Saint-Petersburg +7(812)3885881, Moscow +7(095)2867666. On-line bookshop (in Russian): Full reference to this book: "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture". Edited and curated by Dmitry Bulatov. The National Centre for Contemporary art (Kaliningrad branch, Russia), The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”: Kaliningrad, 2004. ISBN 5-7406-0853-7

Text dies in an artist. The addition of still another media, theme or text production mode, including genetically transformed objects, therefore, brings no principal changes to the strategy of artistic behavior, which has occupied its own habitat in the phantom zone of strategies, tactics, gestures and projects. It should be noted, however, that all the above is important for quite radical viewing of the modern artistic process. But at the same time, any novelty appearing within the limits of fine arts in general certainly generates interest, as well as any interaction with traditional artistic texts, for instance, gives individuals and whole communal and social bodies a feeling of stability, being deeply rooted in history and meditative complicity. But we mean something different.

Top: Bjorn Melhus. Again & Again, 1998. Still from video.
Bottom: Bjorn Melhus. No Sunshine, 1997. Still from video

The unity of all previous human experience in its cultural and aesthetic developments was and is still based on the community of anthropological bases - the last relevant human utopia that generates a feeling of human unity during the whole history of mankind's existence and postulation of a simultaneous multi-cultural world. That is, everything uttered by one individual may be in principle understood by another. Physiological changes accumulated by mankind over the thousands of years of its existence have so far brought about no drastic changes in its principal orientation in the spatial-temporal continuum. The amount of accumulated physiological and cultural transformations, especially during the last few centuries, however, is approaching a crucial point to become the reason for neo-anthropological shifts that may fundamentally reshape our perception of the surrounding cosmos and consequently all preceding human cultural and aesthetic record.
We may observe several typologically similar examples in our real historical development, when the withdrawal of some socio-cultural practice correlated by a certain type of artistic activity brought about drastic changes in its status, say, from elevated to vulgar, rough, and kitsch, or vice versa, or even made any relevant aesthetic perception or any perception impossible. A good example is the fundamental reevaluation of icon painting practice in a new time. A sacred object of worship in church, an icon (sometimes completely black and covered with setting, it had the highest sacral value) brought to a museum was valued for its color, composition, painting, etc. Shaman's things which make indissoluble ritual and performance unity may be displayed in different sections of an ethnography museum - instruments, clothing, texts, etc.
It is modern urban culture (especially inside growing megalopolises) that has drastically changed the basic parameters of human existence and closely approached the problem of new anthropology. Urbanism has ruined habitual diurnal and seasonal cycles, as well as the large and, most important, traditional family, separated love from child-bearing (the sexual revolution and the rehabilitation of untraditional sexual orientation); it has almost cut off child-bearing from human reproductive ability (children from test-tubes and cloning). It has united huge megalopolises with high speed and intensive information transfer (almost canceling the remaining densely populated but uninformed places) intensifying the mobility of travel both intercity and globally, thus turning the ability for immediate orientation and shift of perception and behavior codes into a major virtue, success and even survival factor in modern society.
It is quite evident that the variants of artistic and institutional strategy depend not only on the essence of social changes, but also on the essence and dynamics of anthropological shifts. If the latter are not disastrous, then art will possibly stay in its habitual zone serving habitual needs with its habitual means masticating its habitual gestures in the new media, and vice versa - introducing its habitual gestures into new media and themes. In the current situation, with the rash speed of social and cultural processes when cultural generations have contracted to 5-7 years (and it is evidently not the limit) and when things which appeared only yesterday still staying in the minds of young people (not yet mastered by most minds) become irrelevant and past, large-scale forward socio-cultural heuristic ideological breakthroughs seem quite unlikely. I think that the major breakthroughs are most likely to happen (as manifested in many radical and venturesome research works) in the field of virtual technologies and neo-anthropological transformations.

Albrecht Tuebke. Twins, 2001.

It should be however noticed that unlike research in virtual technologies that encounter no serious ethical and moral obstacles, neo-anthropological research and experiments cause doubts and even moral rejection. Moreover, they are prohibited by the legislation of many countries. And it is quite understandable. It can be explained. In preceding cultures we may find multiple analogies to virtual strategies in the form of different practices of transformed consciousness from hallucinogenic and ecstatic to meditative and ritual, all included in the modern practical set of socio-cultural phenomena in different fields of activity - from religion to rock music, and from unlimited alcohol consumption to drug use. Deep archaic phobias and fears stand however in the way of neo-anthropological experiments; they cause the ban referring to the postulate: a man is an image and resembles God (at least in accordance with the Christian culture). Thereof follow the major negations of different experiments perceived as the abuse of God and struggle with God. In the best-developed and mostly used way this situation is reflected in Golem and Doctor Frankenstein.

This on-line version of the book "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture" is not full. The unabridged edition can be purchased in printed form as anthology. Requests should be sent to: (full information) or in written form: 236000, Russia, Kaliningrad, 18, Marx str., The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”. Phone requests: Kaliningrad +7(0112)216251, Saint-Petersburg +7(812)3885881, Moscow +7(095)2867666. On-line bookshop (in Russian): Full reference to this book: "Biomediale. Contemporary Society and Genomic Culture". Edited and curated by Dmitry Bulatov. The National Centre for Contemporary art (Kaliningrad branch, Russia), The National Publishing House “Yantarny Skaz”: Kaliningrad, 2004. ISBN 5-7406-0853-7

So, speaking both of the oncoming virtualized culture and neo-anthropology problems bringing out serious restructuring of hierarchy and the essence of cultural activity types, and their principal transfer onto new medium and into new anthropological areas of a different resolution capability and, possibly, even a different pattern, it is worth mentioning that current artistic projects involving genetically transformed objects have very little to do with the essence of our discussion, considering existing concepts, behavior modes, the structure and institutions of contemporary art. It may sound strange, but that is it. Modern artists include the above works of art in many of their texts reproduced in different media. In their ordinariness they are quite comparable by their effect with the banality of events, performances, artistic actions, video and computer installations produced in the artistic sphere, which with all their sexual attributes cannot belong to fine arts. But never mind. They took root. And with every new appearance they depreciate the essence and uniqueness of a text by confirming and revealing the primacy of an artist's behavioral existence model in modern society. We should, however, note the following. The above-mentioned changes in existence of contemporary art in the market economy and civil society have brought drastic changes in the role and functioning of contemporary art institutions and their communication with artists. Doubtless in the same way the above experiments with genetically transformed objects are worth special attention and mention, because they promote considerable rearrangement of the long formed artifact drama in sociometry and culture. The participation of well-known scientists and even scientific institutes in these projects, the production mode of scientific practice, the product as a mixture of an aesthetic object and a scientific experiment herald the above-mentioned changes, don't they?

Albrecht Tuebke. Twins, 2001.

The results of different transplantation operations on animals and humans may fall into the same category of objects. If we imagine the utmost limit of such operations, we may see that the increasing possibility to transplant alien organs from other anthrop-amorphous organisms to a human body increases the number of social, religious, legal, personal and identity problems. What quantity and what kind of implanted organs (as far as humans are used to identifying and associating themselves with their heads and brains) maintain an identity unity of a person? For instance, who has the right of legal succession when a donor without legitimate heirs passes his or her organs to a recipient? What happens if it is a multiple variant? What if two artists by some chance come together in one body? Currently, when a signature or a name dominate in most cases over the text itself, will a new creature have the right to sign works of both? Who should it consider itself in this case? Or such problems may become outdated and archaic, the same as titles of nobility for a citizen of the USA.
But if we follow the tendency of prospective transformations further, it is worth considering the most radical of such changes. It is not done to assert its invincible inevitability, but to reveal its extremely advanced virtual point of heuristic extrapolation, wherefrom it is easier to see the most painful point of the problem. So we are talking about cloning. In our particularly heuristic and abstract discourse we do not consider different but however righteous and sometimes irrefutable objections concerning possible inherent, family, cultural and other varieties that now prohibit and will prohibit in future any unification of the process of upbringing, personal distinctions of maturation, as well as social implementation. We may only raise some weak objections thereto and provide a growing and invincible unification of global urban life as an example.

Martin Liebscher. Responsibility risks 2000, 1999. Digital photo, details.

Indeed. It is well known that global culture in general and all global cultures in particular are built up, based and somehow suspended as if on some columns on three basic systems - birth trauma, maturation trauma and death trauma. Cloned creatures never experience a single one of them. Even death trauma doesn't matter because of the parallel existence of a clone or the reproduction of a new matter from a vanishing one. Therefore, a unique and irreproducible creature dying away is out of question, even in the sense of the Hindu idea of degeneration. Even the problem of murder gains a new quality in the new society. As a matter of fact, destruction of a single living being does not mean destruction of personal existence. We may recall the apocryphal medieval idea of a collective animal soul. For instance, the collective cow soul implies that the murder of one cow does not mean the destruction of a living soul, as is the case in of the murder of a human being. We may, therefore, appeal to the collective clone soul, fraught with consequences and problems of struggle for power and mutual destruction of clans. But right now we are discussing the arrangement and shape of our current culture and art in particular in this strange (in our opinion) humaniform existence. Certain specific positions and painful spots of current culture related to the above-mentioned ideas, complexes, birth, maturation and death traumas will not be understandable to a new terrestrial inhabitant. On the other hand, some other, hidden, implicit, implied, marginal and almost imperceptible to us layers of artworks and cultural heritage in general may unexpectedly gain a new significance and urgency. Actually, that happened many times in the history of mankind, but never in that disastrous form we now suppose. But most likely, nothing of the kind happens. Maybe in a different way, if it does at all. And not right now, but little by little, unnoticed by anybody. So that looking some hundred years back one may exclaim: Look! We've missed all that! Certainly, there may be all kinds of different possibilities. But this is a different subject for discussion.

Translated from Russian by Julia Shpakova.


How to purchase this book



I. LABORATORY: science and technology

Svetlana Borinskaya. Genomics and Biotechnology: Science at the Beginning of the Third Millennium.

Mikhail Gelfand. Computational Genomics: from the Wet Lab to Computer and Back.

Irina Grigorjan, Vsevolod Makeev. Biochips and Industrial Biology.

Valery Shumakov, Alexander Tonevitsky. Xenotransplantation as a Scientific and Ethic Problem.

Abraham Iojrish. Legal Aspects of Gene Engineering.

Pavel Tishchenko. Genomics: New Science in the New Cultural Situation.
II. FORUM: society and genomic culture

Eugene Thacker. Darwin's Waiting Room.

Critical Art Ensemble. The Promissory Rhetoric of Biotechnology in the Public Sphere.

SubRosa. Sex and Gender in the Biotech Century.

Ricardo Dominguez. Nano-Fest Destiny 3.0: Fragments from the Post-Biotech Era.

Birgit Richard. Clones and Doppelgangers. Multiplications and Reproductions of the Self in Film.

Sven Druehl. Chimaera Phylogeny: From Antiquity to the Present.
III. TOPOLOGY: from biopolitics to bioaesthetics

Boris Groys. Art in the Age of Biopolitics.

Stephen Wilson. Art and Science as Cultural Acts.

Melentie Pandilovski. On the Phenomenology of Consciousness, Technology, and Genetic Culture.

Roy Ascott. Interactive Art: Doorway to the Post-Biological Culture.
IV. INTERACTION CODE: artificial life

Mark Bedau. Artificial Life Illuminates Human Hyper-creativity.

Louis Bec. Artificial Life under Tension.

Alan Dorin. Virtual Animals in Virtual Environments.

Christa Sommerer, Laurent Mignonneau. The Application of Artificial Life to Interactive Computer Installations.
V. MODERN THEATRE: ars genetica

George Gessert. A History of Art Involving DNA.

Kathleen Rogers. The Imagination of Matter.

Brandon Ballengee. The Origins of Artificial Selection.

Marta de Menezes. The Laboratory as an Art Studio.

Adam Zaretsky. Workhorse Zoo Art and Bioethics Quiz.
VI. IMAGE TECHNOLOGY: ars chimaera

Joe Davis. Monsters, Maps, Signals and Codes.

David Kremers. The Delbruck Paradox. Version 3.0.

Eduardo Kac. GFP Bunny.

Dmitry Bulatov. Ars Chimaera.

Valery Podoroga. Rene Descartes and Ars Chimaera.
VII. METABOLA: tissue culture and art

Ionat Zurr. Complicating Notions of Life - Semi-Living Entities.

Oron Catts. Fragments of Designed Life - the Wet Palette of Tissue Engineering.

Dmitry Prigov. Speaking of Unutterable.

Wet art gallery





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