The show Sekretiki: Digging Up Soviet Underground Culture, 1966–1985 features selected artworks by the artistic duo Rimma and Valery Gerlovin. In the 1970s, the Gerlovins experimented with poetry and prose leading to the creation of a series of poem cubes—cardboard or wooden cubes covered with glued paper or cloth with texts inscribed on their sides. Offering a smart, ironic, and playful approach to space, these poem cubes encourage us to act, literally. For example, the inscription on top of one of them says “Soul. Do not open—otherwise it will fly away!”, and on its bottom, “So, it flew away!”
The poem cubes were initially displayed at apartment exhibitions and given as gifts to friends. Today Gerlovins’ cubes can be found in some of the world’s top museum collections. You can see these works and learn more about them on the artists’ website.
It is easy to make one’s own version of poem cubes at home. You will need thick paper or cardboard (or boxes used to package something), a graphite pencil, pens or felt-tip pens, scissors, a ruler and a glue stick, and also—some imagination.
Below is a fold model of the cube. You can print it out if it is possible or draw yourself. It is important that all the sections are squares of the same size with straight corners! Use the ruler to draw them.
Before folding and gluing the cube, you can cover it with colored paper, candy wrappers, sequins, clippings from magazines or pieces of fabric, or simply paint it using felt-tip pens, crayons or pencils. Poetry lines, riddles, witty comments, and whatnot can be written on the edges of the cube. These texts can be written with a felt-tip pen—or alternatively, you can cut out separate words or letters from magazines or paper sheets, and then glue them on the cube’s sides.
You can even create a whole building set featuring many small-size cubes each dedicated to a particular topic, such as human qualities, emotions, clothing items, and names. Such a set could be called “At Interesting Person” and used for different types of games. For example, you can invent the story of the character “made of” cubes. The set can be stored in an old shoe box covered with colored paper.