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Sekretiki No. 33

In 1980, Dmitri Prigov wrote a prose cycle entitled Obituaries, which concluded with this single- sentence text: “The Central Committee of the CPSU, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, and the Soviet government announce with deepest sorrow that on June 30, 1980, in his fortieth year, Dmitri Prigov is living in Moscow.”

A year later, on May 22, 1979, the Central Committee of the CPSU, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Council of Ministers of the USSR, and the KGB issued a “Top Secret” document permitting the membersofToadstoolgrouptodigontheterritoryof the Odintsovo Order of Lenin Hunting Resort. The document, featuring the names of Brezhnev, Kosygin, and Andropov, requested that the local administration facilitate this process by “providing labor force, instruments, and transport.” The action Excavations, a.k.a. Treasure, took place five days later, on May 27. Having at first got slightly lost, Toadstool members found the excavation site, which had been pre-prepared and filled with soil. After a short period of digging, Sven Gundlakh appeared, in the 21st year of his life. He was a group member, who had been buried alive for one night. The action proceeded calmly, without the need for additional labor or the attention of the authorities. No one asked the artists to present the document giving permission.

Obviously, the paper allegedly sanctioned by the highest echelon of Soviet leaders was a fake by Toadstool group. Parodying the language of newspaper editorials and the rigid composition of Socialist Realist paintings was a favorite activity among the conceptualists in the mid-1970s. This practice demonstrated a simple and convenient truth: within a pile of erased ideological constructions and speech one could hide any content, just like Toadstool group hid a whole person in a field in Moscow Region. Excavations was defined as a “socially absurd performance” by Toadstool group. Such performances occupied a large amount of time in the everyday life of Soviet individuals, who were obliged to attend party and Komsomol meetings.

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