Vadim Ovchinnikov, Shark, 1989
Don’t burn with envy beneath the gaze
Of those who died untimely deaths:
Be untimelier . . . and younger.
Don’t fear those minutes when there are tears in your eyes.
They are your succor.
Take special note of the accent and the gaze.
Don’t turn your back and don’t cower,
Otherwise they’ll finish you off.
Take the high note and sing! It’s better that way.
Don’t burn in acetylene. It’s immoral.
Vadim Ovchinnikov, from The Life of Plants, 1994
Ye who write on the cheek of tenderness and delight
with red-hot tongs!
And the world is mad and war . . .
Look at the sky and you will understand
who you are . . .
Crutches are not conducive to movement—
the other self.
Will the unlocking of locks be employed
Vadim Ovchinnikov, Huts (year unknown)
Be careful when choosing medals,
But don’t save yourselves . . .
Thse hell with them, the whiners . . .
Surely there must be JUSTICE!
And there is LENINGRADCONSTRUCT,
Their name is legion—you cannot enumerate the tide,
Although its roar is clear and beloved . . .
A mouse lies there, poisoned by marmalade.
Nasty rotgut! The mouse has almost rotted away,
Its love will no longer touch . . .
The poor thing lies any old where
Like a karakurt.
But there is no evil in the water, is there?
Nor is there in the pit.
The bureau’s slippery railing scurries amid the winds.
And he was merry and tender,
And condemned immoral acts,
He did not outlive his veins, though, kicking the bucket.
And did the veins long pride themselves on the blood?
They were proud of torso and sperm,
Which had their own original guise . . .
He gave himself nothing but happiness.
Vadim Ovchinnikov, Watercolor, 1990s
them ones or those who don’t scratch the backbone . . . backb.
of the backbone!
he is now presented as an asset.
he lies with a kerf along the backbone
and gazes into the distance . . .
stuffed with eyes.
lovely pupils perspiring
he trrrmbles all over like nobody I know.
he’s probably a lover of kisses!
did you go to the plein air painting session? well, how was it?
ah yes, I forgot . . . you shoveled hay
that smelled of roses, bast, fog . . .
then you looked, only . . .
cautiously so as not to break the glove
of the fallen moon.
did you eat horse meat?
Hur-raa-aaa-aah to the riders!!!
Twenty-four years ago today (May 24), the author of these poems and pictures, the artist Vadim Ovchinnikov (1951–1996), was buried by family and friends at Volkovskoye Cemetery in Petersburg. Ovchinnikov worked in a number of media, including painting, watercolor, collage, animation, mail art, conceptual literature, and music. His works can be found in the collections of the State Russian Museum (Petersburg), the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, the Art Museum of Pavlodar (Kazakhstan), and Kai Forsblom Gallery (Helsinki). For more information on Ovchinnikov’s art and life, see the website ov-ov.com. All images courtesy of ov-ov.com. All poems translated by Thomas Campbell