St Petersburg: Kharmsizdat, 2002—2003. Idea and design by Mikhail Karasik. Four boxes: coloured lithograph on cardboard; 370 × 270 × 60; each box consists eight artist’s books. A limited edition of 21 copies, numbered and signed by the artists.






Andrei Chezhin, Valentin Gerasimenko, Victor Goppe, Vladimir Igumnov, Tatyana Igumnova, Mikhail Karasik, Grigory Kaznelson, Boris Khaimsky, Boris Konstriktor, Vladimir Kozin, Boris Kudryakov, Igor Lebedev, Dmitry Pilikin, Victor Remishevsky, Yury Shtapakov, Pyotr Shvetsov, Eugene Strelkov, Vladimir Uflyand, Vladimir Zagorov, Yulia Zaretskaya, Sergei Yakunin.

Kharmsizdat, the publishing project of Mikhail Karasik, has existed for fifteen years. Daniil Kharms had a magnetic pull in the Leningrad cultural environment of the late 1980s and early 1990s, becoming almost a cult name. For Leningrad/Petersburg, Kharms was a mythological figure, an «idol of the sources», an inspirer of artists and poets. Kharms has became such a long-term project in the art of St Petersburg; the centre of attraction and the starting point of many artistic projects, extravagant gestures and actions. Although the Russian tradition of individual publishing houses founded by artists and poets is not all that rich, this history does contain many vivid and exciting chapters. There were the publishing houses of the Russian Cubo-Futurists — Mikhail Matiushin, Alexei Kruchenykh, Igor Terentiev and Ilya Zdanevich. Iliazd, the famous publishing project of Ilya Zdanevich, was the link between the Russian avant-garde and Dada in Paris. Iliazd is closest in spirit to Kharmsizdat.

Beginning life as Mikhail Karasik’s personal art project, Kharmsizdat now brings together various artists, who have specially created their own books for the publishing house. The aim of the aesthetic programme of all the Kharmsizdat publications can be regarded as resurrecting the experience of the artists and poets of the Russian avant-garde and the art groups of the 1920s and, at the same time, implementing the achievements of Western artist’s books. Kharmsizdat is currently the only project in Russia to unite artists, writers and critics working and reflecting on the artist’s book and the development of modern graphic art in general.

Mikhail Karasik’s Kharmsizdat Presents project presents works united under the common concept of «artist’s books». The artist’s book is a unique combination of traditional book culture and modern art, hand-printed in highly select graphic techniques (etching, lithography, linocut, silkscreen print and photography) in a total run of only twenty-one copies. The general design of the packaging for the entire publication is based on one of the most commonplace and everyday objects of the Soviet period—a Gomeldrev matchbox. Increased in size to folio dimensions, the matchbox becomes both a relic of a past age and a Pop Art object similar to Andy Warhol’s time capsules. The label/cover of every box is lithographed in the stylistics of the Russian avant-garde.

The books are divided into four thematic sets, each one addressing a particular aspect of Russian avant-garde literature. Each set consists of eight books. Three sets are dedicated to the avant-garde poetry of the 1920s and 1930s — the OBERIU group, literary Constructivism and what became known as the «Russian Dada». The fourth is the Leningrad literary underground of the 1970s and 1980s. The entire project brings together the creations of more than twenty artists, investigating the modern understanding of the avant-garde and establishing new links with the traditions of the Futurist books of the 1910s.

Gleb Yershov