Interview for St Petersburg Digest

For over 10 years, Pavel Arsenyev has been actively involved in the literary process of St. Petersburg and Russia as a poet, artist, theoretician, and critic. For the past two years, he has been doing this all while abroad. We discussed with Pavel the peculiarities of contemporary art, the specifics of research and trends in contemporary poetry

By Aleksandr Manuylov
Photo Daniil Rabovsky
Venue Workroom on Marata st.

AM Pasha, you are simultaneously engaged in art and science. Is it difficult to switch cases?

PA In order to measure the complexity of switching between the cases of science and art, you must first clarify how their “keyboard layouts” differ. If art is a kind of careless way of life; canvases and bottles scattered around the workshop, and science is a cabinet activity, accompanied by glasses and a bald head, it would be almost impossible to switch between them. However, it seems to me that both of these areas are a betrayal of something, which is actually whole, and it is in our power to resist its disintegration into isolated specialties. Nietzsche called for “gay science” (Le gai savoir), and Marcel Duchamp spoke about the art of thought (cosa mentale), and it seems to me that these cross ideals could be used as guides. On the other hand, switching cases is a consequence of some institutional fate. If you were born into a professor’s family and you have been “prepared for a career” all your life, of course, you should not swim beyond the buoys or you will not succeed in it anyway. In the same way, the world of art observes its borders; it is not recommended to study science or even literature, although you still make suprematist compositions for avantgarde or publish abstruse verses on wallpaper, it does not really matter. None of these autarkies suited me entirely. In my first year at the university, I began to publish a hooligan literature magazine, which since then has not yet ceased in transforming and deforming my trajectory, and is therefore difficult to perceive as “academic”. In literature and art we are, as Nadia Tolokonnikova once expressed herself, as “guys of the discourse”; that is, boring. This confuses the “control commissions” in both domains, but allows you to generate an original trajectory without interfering with cathedral meetings or commercial galleries. Once, an American Slavonic scholar and avant-garde researcher, who obviously had some kind of jealousy for such institutional behaviour, asked me directly, “Pasha, how much can you stagger around all these international conferences? When will you defend your thesis?” I answered “but I will not defend myself. I will attack. That is what I have been doing since then.

AM How comfortable are you as a creative individual in the nobrow era?

PA As it should have been clear from my previous remark, it is not very interesting for me in any “brow era” if activities are separated according to their specialities and demolition of boundaries is not possible. However, this is rather a horizontal dimension of relations between different institutions. As for the vertical dimension of hierarchy of “cultural quality”, then it seems to me as suspicious as a clear disciplinary affiliation. To write a good or bad novel is not at all the same as introducing new rules for utterance, or, as Arkadii Dragomoshchenko called it, “a different logic of writing”. To satisfy the expectations of the institution is not at all the same as to dispute its functioning or to establish parallel systems — on its borders, on top of or in spite of them. It seems to me that both the institutions of universities and art museums should be surrounded (and captured at the right time) by some schizophrenic groups. In any case, for me, having deliberately lost institutional time and developing a certain anti-disciplinary consciousness, the wisest thing is to continue the production of counter-knowledge, using the minimum institutional disguise (which unnamed Western universities provide) and to be simultaneously on the field of literary war and theoretical explication. AM There is still an established model in the scientific world: a Russian intellectual, in the field of humanities, who travels abroad to teach the history of Russian literature and language. You are a theorist of literature, so you have a much wider horizon of scientific opportunities. What is your scientific research based on? PA Yes, of course, the problem of such an established model exists and very often, avoiding one institutional triviality, we are faced with the danger of another — since we are talking about “run-away” intellectuals and writers. Here it is worth considering both historical examples of such a trajectory (associated, of course, with anti-bolshevik emigration), and the synchronous context of such a decision (existing in the wake of the defeat of the Bolotny protests). In my case, ignoring the institutional boundaries and the rules of conduct within the city and the language eventually should have made me try to spread this logic geographically and linguistically. This idea of crossing linguistic and state borders, with the same ease as disciplinary borders, probably also arose from the revolutionary 20s. We become infatuated with the charm of writing poems and articles about historic dates and places; also, the study of classical texts of “Russian theory”, as Jacobson called it. One reads The Resurrection of the Word, and understands that sometimes these philological science texts originated from a cabaret. One will learn about the “shift” and understand that the creators of the concept themselves were in constant flight from raids and occupation.

AM Back to the literature. In your opinion, how similar are the literary processes in Europe and the USA, compared to what we see in Russia? In addition, can you name your latest book Reported Speech a representation of contemporary Russian poetry?

PA My latest book of poems, Reported speech, was published in New York (Cicada Press, 2019), and the previous book, Spasm of Accommodation, was published in California (Cummune Editions, 2017). It provides the basis for my ironic qualifications as an American poet, if we consider the place of publication as the main criteria, and not the language of writing. This is a non-trivial, or rather, in the words of the publisher, a scandalous fact; given the current institutional rootedness, discussed for almost 15 years in a literary and theoretical journal in St. Petersburg, considered “independent”, or, in old terms, “self-published”. These modern forms of self-publishing makes one think of the history of Russian-American “poetic” geography. For example, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko’s poems provoked more intense discussions within the school of language than within local post-acmeism, which seemed rather unexpected. Today this unifies the young poetic generation. 30 years ago, knowledge of national poetry remained an important cultural privilege on either side of the ocean, however, today poetry is more likely to be a subculture, something like comics, and at the same time is subject to globalization. Presently, poetry holds a place in the global network of subcultures and ceases to be an exclusively national or sophisticated subject.

AM How does the language environment affect you and your texts in this situation?

PA It would be impossible to escape completely from the language itself, as well as from one’s hometown; you continue to think in it. Finally, since we are talking about a specific hometown, we can note important changes in behaviour in writing and in literary reality among the people from that place. Today the institutional time of mainstream-poetry is speeding up, and the trajectories of its academic reception are becoming more complicated. Leningrad-style manuscripts rescued in ark-like suitcases during war and blockade, and which relocated through emigration over the ocean, underwent significant modifications with time. The same modifications occurred to anthology as a genre derivative of such ark-like suitcases. The mass-produced suitcases of poeteditors and performance poets are simply bringing in a new and modified issue from across the ocean to demonstrate new works at the next international conference, replace any poet who has left the city with his own suitcase of manuscripts. Speeding up of intra-poetic metabolism resonates with the inter-institutional compaction of subjectivity. The refusal of institutional monomania (“to be a poet and only”) in many respects results in getting rid of lyricism and mastering other writing/recording strategies, which is stated in the title of the book Reported speech.

AM Pasha, how do you understand the term «contemporary art”? What do you consider as relevant? At the same time, what do you think of protest art and, in a certain sense, export Russian actionism?

PA There is some etymological connection between contemporary and actionist art, but the spirit of the present has obviously left the genres that are actively flowing in the fresh air. It must not be considered a failure or as the last stage of the decomposition of art; it will still decompose for a long time and it remains interesting. It has already happened more than once. After the productions of The Storming of the Winter Palace and The Monument to the Third International from the war-communism times comes the “capitulation” of more specialized and specific art from the New Economic Policy times. Now, among its examples, we can list the most radical cases of the avant-garde, such as photomontages, biomechanics, and the literature of fact. As is clear from the above analogy, I believe that today, after a heroic splash of art on the streets, a more or less successful increase in the overall degree of violence and the flourishing of political (h) activism, the time has come for accountability, reflection and archiving. Despite the fact that it does not return to a dusty library file cabinet, it exists today in a new interactive and polemical form. Discussions surrounding activist-art taking to the streets, utilitarian non-conformism, aesthetic resistance and “stylistic differences with the regime”, arose when it entered social production in 2010 and again after the protest mobilization in 2012. Artistic practices have shifted from an offensive strategy towards a defensive strategy, which result in protracted positional wars and attain their long-term impacts from the “reaction time”. This new state of siege has become a sort of stagnation, a specific late-Soviet chronotope in which “everything should be done slowly and wrong”, or “there is time, but there is no money and there is no one to visit”. Recognizable kinematics also follows from these temporal and spatial intuitions; the current state of the cultural movement tends to go from dissolution to stagnation, from waste to accumulation, from blurring borders to diligent design. This logic of accumulating critical mass, resistance skills, and, of course, the symbolic capital necessary to strengthen autonomy, in turn, dictates a compensatory sense of the era and cultivates sensitivity to the arguments of the “court of history” and the good faith of the “future researchers», and not to possible pragmatic interactions here and now.

AM How do you see Petersburg from the outside?

PA I never thought about this and did not “build relations” with the city. I did not choose which island to go for dying, yet I somehow gravitated towards renting accommodation in Vosstaniya Square: Grechesky prospect, Bakunina and Marata street, Kuznechny alley. Therefore, it was always easier for me to get to Pushkinskaya Street and Borey Art Centre (and later to the Andrei Bely Centre) than to the university. Yet at the same time, the city has never been a mythological poem, but a “machine for life” and the deployment of strategic manoeuvres. The main production traffic was unfolding around Vosstaniya; our publishing house has been located on Obvodny canal for about 10 years, and these self-published products were sent from Moskovsky railway station with friends to other cities. However, with the move, something really changed. Firstly, I left the city in the autumn of 2017 and I remember how barricades began to appear on the Palace Street, of course, those encircled by a tape to indicate production shootings. I sighed in the tiring mythology of my hometown, as in a long-dead love, and confidently headed for Pulkovo. In other words, from the moment I left Petersburg, it began to turn into some kind of fictitious construction, albeit with rather poor decorations and props. Secondly, in Geneva, I began to attend seminars on the unofficial poetry of the city in which I once lived. Despite the fact that I could not learn anything new from them, I visited them for the pleasure of shifting the language angle to a familiar object, which sometimes made it possible to clarify something about my own trajectory, which remained somewhere there, “outside the period”, but clearly belonged to the continuation of this “unofficial” story. As Elena Tager wrote, “But we survived, we are alive, we are a fact, and we will have to bother with us.” Perhaps with my “years of study” I even turned my years of “literary practice” into a stage of preliminary collection of ethnographic material on the material history of literature. Yet, after this seminar, I concluded that being, so to speak, hailing from the Leningrad branch, I have a theoretical, not to be confused with memorial, interest rather in the Moscow conceptualist tradition, for some safety reasons. Otherwise, after a few years, I would have had to «mess around» with the members of his editorial board. Therefore, when I return, sometimes I feel that this happens in post mortem mode. Of course, this gives the opposite effects of “presenting yourself to others in a past life”. I find myself in a strange sense of time, which has turned out to be narrative, and homelessness which has become methodological. After the loss of a certain stable living space, you begin to equip it in writing and from the distance to which we are grammatically related. The breaking of ties with the environment, the failure of production cycles inevitably provoke a memorial heresy. However, in my case, geographic emigration is balanced by an epistemological one: acquired research optics is such an irreversible operation on vision and habit that deprives a simple and intelligible sense of the moment, but allows one to “consider it historically”.

Литература факта высказывания (*démarche, 2019)


Эта книга писалась на протяжении почти 10 лет и в перемещении между двумя странами — Россией и Швейцарией. Точно так же ее главный сюжет — литература факта (ЛФ) — был распределен между советской Россией и так и не ставшей советской Германией, а хронологически умещался в 3 года активной теоретической разработки, с 1927 по 1929. И, что, возможно, еще важнее обозначения хронотопа теоретического высказывания, в обоих случаях текст писался в несколько рук — поэтом и исследователем, активистом и редактором. Как рекомендовал Брехт, называвший Сергея Третьякова своим учителем, «необходимо мыслить коллективом». В соответствии с этой рекомендацией эта книга очень долго и существовала скорее в качестве обсессии, которой автор стремился придать коллективный характер — производя статьи в соавторстве, присваивая заглавия ненаписанных диссертационных глав темам выпусков редактируемого журнала и делая литературу факта сквозным сюжетом самоорганизованных семинаров.

Будучи в своем названии связана с чем-то, казалось бы, «самим собой разумеющимся», литература факта оказывается не только уникальным моментом русской литературы XX века и раннесоветской истории, но и мотором постоянного теоретического вопрошания. Впрочем, как и многие идеи и практики авангарда, литература факта была эпизодом не только советской (теории) литературы, но резонировала со множеством эпистемологических сюжетов — от научного и логического позитивизма до художественного и социологического конструктивизма. Однако еще до теории самой фактографии факт выступил категорией теоретически насыщенной и не нейтральной. Собственно, никаких фактов-как-таковых не существует, факт есть не что иное, как объект, конституированный конкретным методом — в нашем случае методом фактографического письма.

Если факты фабрикуются, значит, это не только кому-нибудь нужно, но и непременно подразумевает задействование определенных инструментов: прагматика и медиология литературного производства фактов оказываются таким же важным моментом исследования, как и эпистемологическая подоплека фактографического предприятия 1920-х годов. Собственно, теоретическое измерение, с самого начала присутствовавшее в затее «записи фактов», делает литературу факта не только «литературой после философии» (по аналогии с формулировкой Д. Кошута), но и актом «взятия слова» и коммуникативной субъективации населения огромной страны «в эпоху технической воспроизводимости». Таким образом, от истории идей литература факта уводит нас к лингвистике высказывания и к технологическому бессознательному литературы. Факты, поначалу представлявшиеся (в) литературе непроблематичными, оказываются причиной серии методологических поворотов, которые заставляют перевести разговор от литературы-как-таковой к палеонтологии языка и антропологии инструмента.

По мере теоретической проблематизации «письма о фактах» сдвигается и жанр исследовательского письма — от историко-литературного анализа ранних стихотворений Сергея Третьякова через прагматическую лингвистику и инструментальный анализ к методологическому рассуждению о возможности материальной истории литературы. От анализа поэтических текстов — к проектированию метода. Аналогичная эволюция была проделана и самим Третьяковым — с той оговоркой, что в его случае стихи скорее просто писались, чем анализировались, а метод скорее рождался на практике, чем сознательно конструировался.

Впрочем, не будем скрывать, что и автору этого сборника гибридная идентичность, фрагментированная география и прерывистость письма не только мешали, но и помогали — заставляя переключаться с умеренно прилежного исполнения университетских обязанностей на «несанкционированное издание» литературно-теоретического альманаха, с участия в международных конференциях — на организацию домашних семинаров, с подготовки журнальных статей с оформленной по всем правилам библиографией — на «контрабандное» применение метода «литературы факта» в современной поэтической ситуации.

Павел Арсеньев


5 эссе о фактографии

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  • Язык дела и литература факта высказывания: об одном незамеченном прагматическом повороте
  • Би(бли)ография вещи: литература на поперечном сечении социотехнического конвейера
  • Жест и инструмент:к антропологии литературной техники

Эссе по прагматической поэтике

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  • Драматургия в бане, или Несчастья демократии (о трансмиссии театрального действия в кино-пьесе “Марат/Сад”)
  • Театр настоящего времени: Rimini Protokoll как вымысел действия
  • Как совершать художественные действия при помощи слов (о прагматической теории искусства Тьерри де Дюва)
  • Язык дровосека. Транзитивность знака против теории «бездельничающего языка»
  • К конструкции прагматической поэтики

Инструментальный анализ и материальная история литературы

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  • Видеть за деревьями лес: о дальнем чтении и спекулятивном повороте в литературоведении
  • «Писать дефицитом»: Дмитрий Пригов и природа «второй культуры»

Борьба на три фронта (Диалог-послесловие с Олегом Журавлевым)
Совершать действия без помощи слов (Послесловие в диалоге с Ильей Калининым)

Связанные мероприятия:

5 сентября / Петербург презентация на книжном фестивале «Ревизия» на Новой Голландии (при участии Андрея Фоменко)

14 сентября / Самара лекция-перформанс «Как научиться не писать стихи. Краткий перечень инструкций для начинающих проклятых поэтов», основанный на текстах книги

17 сентября / Тюмень презентация в книжном магазине «Никто не спит» (при участии Игоря Чубарова)

29 октября / Москва лекция-перформанс «Как не писать стихи» в культпросвет-кафе «Нигде кроме» (при Моссельпроме)


Red Star: о лингвистике Богданова

RED STARS (2019) 4K Video, 01:08:47 min., Russian with English Subtitles

RED STARS is a film Axel Stockburger that engages with Alexander Bogdanov’s science fiction novel Red Star (1908), which envisions a utopian society on Mars and its contemporary reception in the context of contemporary renewed efforts to colonize Mars. RED STARS investigates central topics of Bogdanov’s pre-revolutionary socialist imagination, reaching from collectivity and identity, over gender-relations, art, science towards economy and education, through the use of interviews with Alexander Malinosky, Alla Mitrofanova, Pavel Arseynev, Anastasia Gacheva, Anna Gorskaya and Boris Klushnikov.

«Марсианский язык» Богданова часто возводят к «революционной ситуации в языкознании», когда вопреки уже имевшейся прививке переводов Соссюра стремились мыслить и проводить «языковую политику». Однако можно в нем видеть и наследника двух традиций «поисков совершенного языка» — сенсуалистской и рационалистической. В 1 случае это возможно благодаря тому, что марсианский язык «звучен и красив, не представляет никаких особенных трудностей в произношении» (Б. начинает описание языка, как и полагается, с фонетики), во 2 же – благодаря «простоте его грамматики и правил образования слов», которые «вообще не имеют исключений», что явно наследует многочисленным проектам «универсальной грамматики», чья простота-без-исключений порой оказывалась хуже воровства (чем можно называть омонимию естественных языков). Если грамматический род оказывается для Б. «очень не важен», то «различия между теми предметами, которые существуют, и теми, которые еще должны возникнуть», напротив грамматикализируются. Такой перенос акцента с генетических аспектов языка на прагматические возможности действия с / над вещами уже связывает Б. скорее с производственничеством («вещью, обучающей участию») и историческим материализмом в принципе.

Впрочем, этот перевод стрелок с истоков на изменчивость произошел не без влияния уже советского лингво-эпистемологического контекста, в котором за идеал единого языка отвечал Марр и этот идеал был отнесен из прошлого в будущее, когда «различные диалекты сблизились и слились в одном всеобщем языке». Уже после Б. и под его собственным влиянием братья Гордины предложат логический язык, в котором тоже нет ни местоимения «она», ни родительного падежа — как «пережитка генетизма (происхожденчества), фетишизма и мифологизма», поскольку такой язык «не спрашивает ‘откуда?’, он спрашивает ‘куда?’, ‘к чему применить?’ — к будущему!».

Лингвистика Б. оказывается как бы между поисками «совершенного» и чаще всего «единого» языка и радикальной пластичностью человеческого мозга, между Марром и Гордиными. Марр еще в сущности очень интересовался историей языка и черпал многие черты его будущего устройства в его (глоттогенетическом) прошлом, но уже предлагал контр-генетический и контр-интуитивный ход с пролетарским языком, понятным «пролетариям всех стран», но не буржуазии тех же наций (в чем возможно, под «языком» понималась скорее идея беспрепятственной коммуникации, радио-интернационала). Гордины были уже полностью развернуты к артифициалистской перспективе (пере)изобретения человеком самого себя, в которой этот конструктивистский в сущности раж охватывал не только язык, но и биологию человека, физику планеты и даже астрономию солнечной системы.

Язык был только одним и отнюдь не центральным инструментом «конструирования» (социального, идентичностей или что там теперь еще конструируют) – как это станет позже для постструктуралистской/феминистской критики — в сущности столь же непримиримой к прежнему положению дел, сколь и переоценивающей роль «лингвистического программирования» в его изменении. (Так Барт называл язык фашистом, оказываясь верным последователем Соссюра и одновременно советской идеи «языковой политики», т. е. того, что превышает говорящего, но требует тем большего сопротивления на письме).

Тот же Леруа-Гуран, у которого с Марром немало общего, понимает язык не как универсальный инструмент (конструирования реальности), но как только один из операторов технической изобретательности человека наряду с другими физическими инструментами и материальной средой. Именно такая техно-антропология языка предвосхищается утопизмом таких последователей лингвистики Б. как Гордины, как и многие другие пост-гуманистические сюжеты, о которых идет речь в фильме.


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Reported Speech (NYC, 2018)

This is the first bi-lingual English-Russian edition of Pavel Arseniev’s poetry. Arseniev is a St. Petersburg writer, editor, political activist, theoretician, and recipient of the Andrei Bely prize, Russia’s most prestigious literary award. The book contains an introduction by Kevin M.F. Platt (University of Pennsylvania) and is edited by Anastasiya Osipova.

Arseniev’s poetry provides a living link between the legacy of the 1920s Soviet avant-garde art­ and theory, on the one hand, and the modern Western materialist thought on the other. It traces how these diverse influences become weaponized in the language of contemporary Russian protest culture. Arseniev readily politicizes all, even the most mundane facts of the poet’s life, while at the same time, approaching reified bits of found speech and propaganda with lithe, at times corrosive irony and lyricism.

“One hundred years after the October revolution, LEF (Left Front of the Arts), and Russian Formalism, Pavel Arseniev brings into Russian poetry the militant excitement of subversive materialist exploration and canny activist protest. The unique results of this poetic event will, without a doubt, be exceptionally interesting and useful to an American reader.”

         Kirill Medvedev, the author of It’s No Good

“Pavel Arseniev charts the ‘emergence of unexpected forms of collective life…’ These vivid translations show contemporary Russian poetry at one of its high points, where language laughs at its own seriousness but opens the way for astute cultural insights and a bracing evocation of life lived out loud.”

         Stephanie Sandler, Harvard University

The truths of Russian administered reality were long ago stripped bare, so that now the poet’s work is to invent a new line of camouflage. Warning: Pavel Arseniev is a defector with only his disguises to divulge. Perhaps this as close as we can come, in this moment, to alchemy. Or is it allegory? Warning: this is poetry that makes Russia great again. Arseniev is taking a bullet for poetry but, at the same time, he is asking – will poetry take a bullet for you? Warning: any complete picture – lies. Then one day dyr bul schyl. Reported Speech turns the stink of the real into a stinging aesthetic coup de grace. I’m defecting to that.

         Charles Bernstein, University of Pennsylvania


In a bilingual Russian-English format, Arseniev’s work articulates intimate, defiant, and at times desperate responses to a world in which culture seems to be increasingly prefabricated, predetermined, and designed to numb the mind and soul.

Exposing the absurd vagaries of the present moment is where the volume shines as a tremendous piece of internationalist literature.

Through art like Arseniev’s poetry, we gain a toehold, however momentary, from which we are better able to grasp the present and prepare a future.

As a keyhole into contemporary Russian experimental poetry, the volume should find a broad readership in the English speaking world. In essence, the book represents poetic strategies for resistance and survival under fierce oppression, underscoring that literature matters, as well as how it does things.

Pavel Arseniev’s poems of solidarity and alienation illuminate the phantasmagoria of capitalist Russia.

«By concentrating as much on the act as on the content of speech, Arseniev seems also to have come closer to documenting aspects of the very tenor of life and reality in the present epoch. Through using the genre of police reports or of legalese in ‘An Incident’ and ‘Forensic Examination’, or the language of adverts in ‘Mayakovsky for Sale’ and ‘Mass Median’, a series of brief news items in ‘Reports from the Field’, or the long parodic poem-diatribe in nationalist hate-speech In response to a ‘Provocative Exhibition of Contemporary Critical Art’, we discover not the poet’s perspective, but a concrete, material trace taken from excessive speech which illuminates the strange capitalist phantasmagoric world that is contemporary Russia.»

From its very first pages, Pavel Arseniev’s Reported Speechshows itself to be true to its title; the opening poem’s epigraph comes to us, we are told, from an “Instruction in the platzkart train car” (15). This is only the beginning of a journey through a trail of words found, mixed and transmitted from various source texts. The poems represent “reported speech” in the sense that they are inspired by found texts, by language encountered on the streets, in police stations, rail cars, courtrooms, newspapers, books, personal correspondence, nationalist political screeds, and writing on social media and the internet. The poet appropriates, organizes, shuffles and shapes the material of the political world, which is everywhere, for everything is political.Pavel Arseniev is part of a group of contemporary Leftist poets developing new modes of resistance and protest through literary production. Arseniev’s unabashedly political project rejects any view of art and art institutions as motivated by a search for the next singular voice of creative genius.  Rather, his creative practice seeks to dismantle the idea of poetry as narcissistic, individualistic self-expression and instead aims to capture and convey aspects of human social experience in the world through the multifaceted voices of the collective.
His larger creative project is to facilitate the dissemination of socially engaged and marginalized speech and, in some ways, to continue the legacy of the Russian avant garde and factographic movements of the 1920s. Arseniev also sees his mission in part as working to fill a void left in the wake of the collapse of samizdatculture of the 1970s.

Related events:

27 November Pennsylvania University | Readings & discussion @K.PLatt’s seminar
29 November City University of New York (Hunter College) | Poetry Reading and Book Talk

30 Novembre — 1 December Yale University | Symposium «Pointed Words: Poetry and Politics in the Global Present»
2 December New York City | Readings @Ugly Duckling Press Headquarters
4 December Chicago University | Readings & discussion @R.Bird’s seminar

5 December Harvard University | Readings & discussion @S.Sandler’s seminar
8 December Boston | Readings @ASEEES
12 December New York University (Jordan Center) | Poetry Reading and Book Talk @Jordan Center

25 мая Москва | Библиотека им. Н.А. Некрасова

29 июня Санкт-Петербург | Новая сцена Александринского театра

Download press release

Download pdf of a book


Интервью и ментальная карта для выставки «Ревизия: места и сообщества»

В сентябре 2018 года в рамках фестиваля «Ревизия» был презентован зин «Ревизия: места и сообщества», в котором представлены 14 историй о Петербурге, проиллюстрированных ментальными картами города: графическими зарисовками персональной топографии, жизненных маршрутов, знаковых мест и событий.

Как возможно построить разговор о культурном пространстве города? Что в него включается? Кто его определяет? Эти карты и интервью — отражение личного опыта проживания культурного пространства, и, вместе с тем, — подступы к разговору о совпадениях маршрутов, попытка определения общих мест. Все герои и героини выставки-исследования так или иначе вовлечены в различные не институциональные инициативы и сообщества в сфере поэзии, теории, современного искусства, музыки, театра, активизма.

Интервью Павла Арсеньева среди интервью других художников, поэтов и философов, среди прочего, передающих из разных перспектив и под разными углами исторические детали становления журнала [Транслит] из инициативы двух студентов на задворках филологического факультета, историю Коммуны на Кузнечном и другие мифы и легенды Петербурга 2000-10-х, а также дающие критический анализ культурной сцены в ситуации новых форм занятости и медиа-темпоральности.

PDF по ссылке

Для тех, кто все желает приобрести бумажный экземпляр, «Порядок слов» запустил подписку на печатную версию зина:


Poetry & Performance at Nova synagoga, Zilina / Kulturni centar, Beograd / Shedhalle, Zürich / Motorenhalle, Dresden

Pavel Arsenev, Babi Badalov, Collective Actions Group, Václav Havel, Semyon Khanin (Orbita), Yuri Leiderman / Andrey Silvestrov, Andrei Monastyrski, Roman Osminkin, Dmitri Prigov, Lev Rubinstein, Mladen Stilinović & many others
Tomáš Glanc, Sabine Hänsgen.
In the second half of the twentieth century, poets and artists in particular took up the challenge of reflecting on and investigating the instrumentalization of language for communicative and political-ideological purposes. They did so by drawing attention to the “made-ness” of language, its material and medial dimension, and by creating performative situations for themselves and their audiences within which possibilities of verbal expression could be tested and acted out. In Eastern Europe, poetry and performance played a significant role in the unofficial or partially tolerated cultural scene.
Poetry & Performance. The Eastern European Perspective The writing practice of samizdat and its relation to the devices of concrete and visual poetry have been treated and presented in a number of previous projects. Until now however, less consideration has been given to the circumstances of performance. In addition to the typescript literature of samizdat, subcultural  milieus attached particular importance to the oral recitation of poems, exhibitions, and poetry actions. The interrelation between text and situation in poetic acts functioned as a trigger for performances and happenings. The exhibition presents authors from subcultures in socialist states along with contemporary positions that continue the legacy of combining poetry and performance. It shows the efforts of poets and artists to break free from controlled language and normative communicative now and then. “Poetry & Performance. The Eastern European Perspective” thus confronts the current social challenges in the post-socialist countries through the prism of language and ideology and looks back at their points of departure. 

La propagande par le fait

Pavel Arsenev’s & Michael Kurtov’s lecture-performance «La propagande par le fait» in the framework of the programm «REAGENZ — Dialog of artist and philosopher»

4 Decembre, в 19.00
Kunstraum Dreiviertel
Monbijoustrasse 69, Bern

The juxtaposition of effectiveness of words and of persuasiveness of deeds dates back to the biblical epoch, but in political practice this pair first appears in the movement of parlefaitism (from the French ‘par le fait’), or propaganda by the deeds, inspired by writings of Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin (buried in bremgarten cemetery, bern). In the illiterate country which Russia was in 19th century such form of political argument as ‘real deeds’ was indeed more convincing than any speech acts, however а deep distrust towards the signifier is rooted in the very russian cultural consciousness, e.g., in a metaphysical aspiration of poets ‘to speak by the soul’ or ‘to write with the truth’. The aim of the project is to clarify what parlefaitism can mean for political, artistic and intellectual life today, in the year of the centenary of the October revolution.

Event / Video


Grenze des Systems DIALOG NO.1 PAVEL ARSENEV & MIKHAIL KURTOV 4. Dezember, ab 19.00 Kunstraum Dreiviertel Monbijoustrasse 69, Bern Wir freuen uns, Euch zu unserer neuen Veranstaltungsreihe des interdisziplinären Projekts «REAGENZ — Dialog zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft» einzuladen. Eröffnet wird die Reihe am 4. Dezember mit der Präsentation der Ergebnisse eines Gespräches zwischen Dr. phil. Mikhail Kurtov und dem Künstler Pavel Arsenev. Der Wissenschaftler und der Künstler sind nach eingeladen um sich mit dem Thema “Grenze des Systems” auseinander zu setzen. Zum Abschluss des “Revolutionsjahres” werden sich unsere Gäste aus St. Petersburg an den, in Bern beerdigten, russischen Anarchisten Bakunin erinnern und die Grenze zwischen “Real deeds” (die von ihm propagierte, leistungsorientierte Arbeit) und “blosser Rederei” diskutieren. Wir kennen weder Ablauf noch Ergebnis des Gesprächs und sind gleichermassen gespannt auf die Präsentation. Ausstellung: 4. Dezember – 20. Dezember 2017





Fancy Moscow (Installation)

Fancy Moscow, 2017



Cosmoscow International Contemporary Art Fair and Mercury present Pavel Arsenev’s installation Fancy Moscow. The work is displayed as part of Cosmoscow parallel programme with participation of Alexei Maslyaev, curator of Cosmoscow non-commercial programme.


Between the arches of the Tretyakovsky Pass and all along its length three-dimensional white letters are strained. They are formed in lines of simple words and short sentences. While the viewer tries to look them over in a single glance, they intersect in layers, ‘interrupting’ each other. One can only ‘embrace’ them in motion. While moving to Nikolskaya Street, all the lines can be read in a certain non-linear sequence, connecting into a spatial text composition. The way it is organized (breakdown into lines and their length, the line spacing, etc.) sets the rhythm. This way separate phrases and words become a poetic speech suddenly materialized.

Arsenev’s interest toward graphical aspects and types of poetic texts’ representation implies rapport and convergence of the both literary and artistic spheres. The Fancy Moscow installation introduces the work of Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934-2009), notable representative of the second wave of Russian avant-garde and poet of the conceptual school to the art scene. As Nekrasov himself said, “For me poetry is, to a large extent, is visual art,” and Arsenyev shares this view of poetic text. Arsenyev provides the text with material form and puts it into another dimension. There is a transition of a temporal phenomenon into a spatial phenomenon. Poetry ceases to be intended for reading and turns into a situation that emerge as a space of interaction and dialogue. Being a work of public art, Arsenyev’s statement is connected with the transformation of the everyday urban environment, in which there is usually no place for poetry. Overcoming the boundaries of printed page, expanding the notion of its possible relation to reality, poetry invades the city and fuels imagination and the ability to dream.


Pavel Arsenev is an artist, poet and theorist. Arsenyev is the participant of several personal and collective exhibitions (see here) and author of three books, “That, Which Does Not Settle In the Head” (AnnaNova, 2005), “Colorless Green Ideas Violently Slumber” (Kraft, 2011), and «Spasm of accommodation” (Berkeley, 2017). He is editor-in-chief of the literary criticism almanac Translit. He was the recipient of the Andrei Bely Literary Prize in 2012.






Spectacle by Pavel Arsenev based on dramatic poem Keti Chukhrov.

Site-specific performance directed by Pavel Arsenev took place on clothes market in the very center of S-Petersburg behind the Big Dramatic Theater. The piece is based on the text “Afgan-Kuzminki”, a dramatic poem by Keti Chukhrov with two protagonists — the wholesale dealer of the cheap clothes market and a saleswoman. This play juxtapose the everyday prophane language of the unprivileged with the almost miraculous potentiality to overcome and transcend such language by means of the Poetic, that can arise from anywhere. Harshness that helps to struggle with hard life at the expence of becoming beasty, rude and merciless might have an incredible and unexpected outcome in case of the event of love, filiation, meeting, amity. Hatred, pain, nausea may have a strange climax when they are able to achieve transformation into the opposite. This is possible only in the regime of the poetic parole which is not the monologue of a lirycal hero, but always a live dialogue between the two or more — i.e. a theatre. The plot of a play is very simple. The wholesale supplier Hamlet offers the saleswoman Galina a barter — if she has sex with him, he lets her get a more profitable sales counter — not the underware counter at which she presently works but the fur-counter. It is clear though, that none of them actually desires such sex, they do it because within the life they live they are doomed to such relationship. This is a mathematical formula of a predetermined promiscuous compromise, out of which the real touch between two human beings could help to escape. Such an escape may happen not by means of morals or elevated matters but within the fuss of life’s filth, and despite it. As long as the play goes on, Hamlet and Galina try to have sex at a dress-change room right in the market. It is not comfortable there, so they move to medical-aid room, just because there is a bed there. And again, Galina is hampered by medicines’ smell, Hamlet beats her for being so capricious but they later drive to Hamlet’s flat. Then all of a sudden Galina’s favourite series begin over TV and she asks to postpone sex after it ends. They dumbly watch TV. Then Hamlet is listening to Putin’s speech until it is very late and until they both — very tired and unable to have any contact — intimate, personal, or any other — are ready to fall asleep. The more so, that their job at the market the next day starts at 7 a.m. This is when the miracle may happen — between sleep and wake, between being and non being, between man and woman. And it sort of happens.

Director: Pavel Arsenev
Dramatic poem: Keti Chukhrov
Actors: Vladislava Miloslavskaya and Petr Chizhov
Designer: Eugenia Myakisheva
Sound-design: Artem Stepanov

Reated events:

26 july, Petersburg. Discussion «To be and to perform» with Pavel Arsenev and Keti Chukhrov

30 august, Riga. Pavel Arsenev’s lecture on contemporary experimental theater.



Интервенция в городскую среду // Экран и сцена

Театр в натуре // Газета.ru

Введите свой текст

Введите свой текст…

Групповая выставка «Введите свой текст…»

Выставка «Введите свой текст…» — размышление о роли текста в произведениях современных художников. На выставке будут представлены работы 11 молодых авторов, особенностью которых так или иначе становится использование текста в визуальном искусстве.

Слово и текст сопровождают изображение с древнейших времен, постепенно логично соединяясь в рукописях, книгах, плакатах и т.д., но также проникая в, казалось бы, чуждую для себя сферу — живописного пространства. Беря свое начало в экспериментах авангарда, и достигнув наивысшей точки развития в концептуализме – включение текста в живопись не теряет актуальности до сих пор.

Объединив работы разных авторов, основной темой выставки станет вопрос — кто же они, эти молодые художники, для которых текст основа основ? Последователи концептуалистов, рефлексирующие над искусством его же средствами? Повзрослевшие граффитчики, поменявшие уличные стены на холсты? Современные поэты, создающие некий синтез искусств? Может быть, просто люди, ведущие дневник оригинальным способом?

И, наконец, вопрос, который встает не только перед зрителями, но и участниками и создателями выставки — что же это: вызов или провокация, недостаточность и исчерпанность живописных средств, следование традициями или подражание? Или же единственная возможность высказаться и быть услышанным?

Художники: Павел Арсеньев, Стас Багс, Митя Безыдейный, ЕлиКука,
Максим Има, Мария Крючкова, Кирилл Кто, Дарья Мацкевич, Семен Мотолянец, Тристан Рево, Валерий Чтак.

Куратор: Елизавета Воробьева

Группа текстового искусства

Интервью с куратором выставки «Введите свой текст…»