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Daniil Kharms: liubovs i smerts

This is another book in the collection at the National Art Library. From their website:


“This extraordinary and unique book object, the title of which translates as ‘Daniil Kharms: love and death’, was created by the artist Sergei Yakunin in Moscow in 1991. It is based on the life and writings of Danill Kharms (1905-1942), an early Soviet-era avant-garde poet, dramatist and writer of children’s books. Kharms was imprisoned during the Stalinist period, dying in captivity during the Siege of Leningrad in 1942. This bookwork is a macabre echo of experiences undergone by Kharms during his lifetime. The work, full of sculptural imagery, scrolls, and moving parts, is almost entirely made of corrugated cardboard, wood and papier mâché and is housed in a silver-painted chest. Within the chest, the main body of the work comprises a large, book-shaped structure with three compartments. The first contains pulleys and bells, the second a series of paper masks, and the third a three-dimensional moving tableau of a torture scene featuring a sculptural human face with arms attached on springs. An elaborate system of pulleys and strings attached to the face and arms can be operated to rotate the ‘eyeballs’ of the victim, accompanied by discordant sounds. Embellished throughout with extracts of writings by Kharms, the work also features two expressionist painted portraits of the writer.”

When I worked as a graduate trainee in this library, every time someone requested this book my heart would sink. Taking it in and out of it’s box was a massive pain in the ass, and I always had horror visions of ripping it up by accident, in front of a reader. Luckily it never happened.

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