totart1totart2The artists of the TOTART group, Natalya Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov, have been producing the joint project “Research into the Essence of Art in Relation to Life and Art” since the late 1970s. The project includes paintings, installations, performances, actions, videos and analytical texts on the theory of contemporary art. They participated in Aptart events and compiled and edited the Moscow Archive of New Art. They have been working with new media since the beginning of the 1990s. Their works are held by the State Tretyakov Gallery, State Russian Museum, in Russian and foreign archives, and in foundations and private collections.

The exhibition “TOTART: Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov” at the Moscow Museum of Mod­ern Art is a “total project” in which the artists use a conceptual approach to bring to life their founda­tional project, “Research into the Essence of Art in Relation to Life and Art.” It is the result of sev­eral decades’ of work. The idea of an art project as a kind of Total Art Action (TOTART) combining the creative efforts of two artists – a man and a woman – emerged in the late 1970s. The artists’ individual work from the 1960s and ’70s was seamlessly integrated into this project and continued its own development. Paintings, drawings, performance documentation, installations, cinema, videos, texts and artistic ex­periments with sound are brought together to produce a performative installation covering the four floors of the museum’s exhibition space. The project unfolds as a hypertext of sorts, with artworks creating an interactive environment constructed around the principal axes of the Project: the Russian avant-garde; the East-West dialogue; gender; nature and culture; word and image. The exhibition employs a dynamic model of time that allows visitors, moving along the spirals, to see the different themes developing. The primary goal of the project is to show the mechanisms of contemporary art in a changing world, and to criticize art by means of art itself.

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