The exhibition shows 30 books created in the context of Mikhail Karasik's unique Russian publishing project. The project's participants work in the genre of "artist's book". Three poets, three art historians, and seventeen artists took part in this large Russian graphic project. Among those are Peter Shvetsov, Yulia Zaretskaya, Viktor Remishevsky, Valentin Guerasimenko, Yury Shtapakov, Andrei Chezhin, and Igor Lebedev.
The exhibition is also a presentation, since the participants did not have an oportunity to see the whole project. The four sets of books, representing four literary trends, are placed in large boxes. Those resemble enormous matchboxes with lables - names of trends. The first set, OBERIU
box, was prepared a year ago and was then acquired by different museums and libraries.
The project's name - "Kharmsizdat" - is not random. Daniel Kharms' oeuvre possessed really magic attractiveness in Leningrad culture of the late 1980s - early 90s. Kharms himself was a mythological figure, a secret inspirer for many artists and poets. Kharms became the centre of gravitation and reference point for many creative undertakings, extravagant gestures and acts, at least in the last 15-20 years, overshadowing another "religious" concept - OBERIU
(The Society of Real Art).
"Kharmsizdat" appeared in the late 1980s- the time when first publications of Daniel Kharms' works became known (earlier they were available only in "samizdat" form or in books for children). At that moment Russian avant-garde was actively and successfully fighting for its place, while modern art was establishing itself as a fundamentally new phenomenon, with its new genres and forms. It was in the early 1990s that artist's book appeared. The genre has not exhausted its resources, despite all artists' experiments and exaggerated fantasies. These only widened the genre's possibilities.
Aesthetic programme of "Kharmsizdat" publications is aimed at reconstructing experience of Russian avant-garde artists and poets, experience of art association of the 1920s. It also uses achievements of Western "artist's book". Over the last ten years two main trends of the genre have formed: an object-book, which treats a book as a metaphor of a book and is meant for exhibition rooms, and a paper-book, created in original graphic technique. The former are acquired mainly by museums, the latter - by libraries. "Kharmizdat" participants belong to the second trend. However, they use achievements of those artists who create "object-books".
Originally, "Kharmsizdat" was Mikhail Karasik's individual art project. Now it unites various authors who create their books for this particular publishing house. "Kharmsizdat" has published not only Mikhail Karasik's lithographic books, but collections and catalogues on exhibitions devoted to "artist's book" or held in the context of Kharms festivals as well. Valery Sazhin, Mikhail Zolotonosov, Vladimir Erl, Yekaterina Bobrinskaya, Yulia Demidenko wirked with "Kharmsizdat" at different periods. Such books as "Soviet Eros of the 1920s - 1930s", "Avant-garde Behaviour", "Dembel Album - Russian Art Brut" have been published.