Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin, Zoo – Homo Sapiens, 1977,
photo: Victor Novatsky
Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin
Zoo – Homo Sapiens

Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin (*1951 / *1945, Russia, USA) were founding members of the underground Conceptual movement in Soviet Russia. Since coming to America in 1980, they have had many personal exhibitions in galleries and museums. Originally working with sculpture, visual poetry and performance art, they later introduced photography to their body of work. Their art is grounded in playing with paradoxes and is rich in metaphor, language and symbolism. They frequently use their bodies as a surface for psychological experience. Male / female features are part of their metaphorical games toward a theatre of consciousness. Their philosophical and mythological implications are also reflected in their theoretical work and writings.

artists' website: www.gerlovin.com

“Presented at the Eastern European Biennial in Venice, the performance touches upon the primeval state of human nature. We were seated naked in a cage labelled ‘Homo sapiens, a group of mammals, male and female’ — as a symbol of the encagement of Russian culture by the Soviet regime. On the metaphorical side, it was an archetypal symbol and a mental–psychological experiment. The image of a cage might have social, mental, emotional or physical connotations, or it can incorporate all of these. If we accept the definition of freedom as the conscious awareness of necessity (for many individuals necessity might be associated with the cage to a certain extend), the natural outcome of such perception would be a desire to get rid of such ‘freedom’. On the other hand, in certain situations, self-caging also implies self-imposed isolation and is not only a symbol of limitation, but also a kind of safeguarding that is helpful in the process of formation and reformation of the psyche. This was a prime ‘tool’ in ancient yoga and other ascetic practices of different spiritual traditions.” Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin

Performance: 17 February 1977, Moscow

Courtesy Rimma Gerlovina and Valeriy Gerlovin

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body control, femininity, human/non-human animals, masculinity