Ilya KABAKOV:…the point is in the turning of the pages (1970s)

Gatherings in Ilya Kabakov’s Studio

1) The point of the albums is in the turning of the pages.

2) So that at least something can be understood.


1) While the pages are being turned, something happens.

2) In the grey albums, I wanted to describe it, so that I could get rid of it – turns out it was all just like in real life.

3) Turning the pages further.

9) Grey is when there is no black or white.

10) Grey does not contain any black or white.


1) Soon it will “happen” and it will suddenly become clear. But nothing will be clarified.

2) Grey is a life without fate.

3) And just nothing at all.

4) The possibility of drawing something on it.

5) The point of disappearance of the thing that was drawn.

6) The end of everything.

7) But also the beginning…

8) The point where there is yet nothing.

9) The solar energy that transferred into the trees and through them into the paper where it is preserved and lives.

10) The image of death.

11) It underlies everything that might be drawn or written on it (although black can also underlie everything). Only gray can’t be underneath, everything fits “into” it.

12) White easily, instantly turns into light. Benevolent light which hides invisible benevolence.

13) White, which contains all within itself, and gives birth to all wholeness, gives of itself its life, always, at every moment, even now.

14) White, which gives all of life and even now in this instant, as I gaze at all this.

15) White, having no past or future and always in the “now.”

16) Always ready to create something new from anything at all, without distinction.


1) When there is fate, there will be white and black.

2) In the albums, time flows; looking through it is the pure time of our life.

3) Page after page is turned with the same speed, like the movement of the second hand.


1) This time moves among other objects that surround the album in the light of day and seem to stand still.

2) In this time, something could happen, or not.

3) But anyway, that’s not the point.

4) Everything goes back to the action that cannot be dismissed: turning the pages of the albums.

5) Soon it will happen, and everything will become clear. But nothing will be clarified.

6) But the turning of the page is not a real (everyday) action – it is an “artistic” action.

7) Artistic action (the turning of the album pages) is higher, more concentrated, it seems, than everyday action.

8) But it is also lower than the state of complete clarity and distinctness.

9) It is located in the gap between everyday life, the striking of the clock by “nothing.”

10) And elucidation, coming into meaning.

11) This is why it is who-knows-what.

12) It might have been like an “artistic phenomenon,” the expression of the artistic style of its time and then become something…

13) But for this, it should not have been self-destruct and strip itself bare and turn into emptiness.

14) In which remains only one mechanical action: the turning of pages.

15) And by force of this dismal turning, it does not become anything, even something artistic.

16) But artistic style does not appear when there is a repetition, but when an image or a text appears on the pages.

17) Both things can be related to other artistic phenomena in the series and thus emerges the possibility of forming a style.

18) It can be related in such cases to other artistic phenomena.

19) There emerges a connection with the past and with the surroundings.




26) But the start and finish are the same anyway: at zero.

27) And all that is left is the foundation: the turning of the pages.

28) We should return to the turning of the pages itself then and see what it is all about.

29) The turning of the pages resembles fate in its intrusiveness and compulsion.

30) We must recognize it not as freedom, but as compulsion.

31) And like fate, it unfolds over time.

32) Or, maybe, it is a “model” of fate, its image?

33) And for this reason, it is clear to each, to all?

34) And turns out to be burdensome, depressing, and oppressive?

35) Without any eyes or sense, even?

36) ………

37) And appears as mechanical beats, as sadness and boredom, as just the turning of pages.

38) And the comprehension of “why” will not take place, it is outside our boundaries?

39) But fortunately, this is not a model.

40) Not an image.

41) In reality, this is not an image made “artistic,” but fate itself.

42) But for one person only, he is the only one who will recognize it. This turning of the pages was for him alone.

43) Just as for each, but in a different way, and again, only for oneself.


7) Here is an illustration of how an image quickly turns into imagelessness, into an everyday act.

8) But maybe into a sacred act.

9) Into a ritual, but what kind, of what?


1) There is no life exterior to life, but neither is there any life within.

2) So much needs to be reiterated and redrawn in order for emptiness to appear.

3) The reduction of everything simply to “things.”

4) If one were born in “culture,” then all processes would take place inside it, but here it turns out that there was a large chunk of life without it, then in it, and now finally again outside of it. But maybe all of this was an illusion. After all, everything takes place in culture’s light.


(undated, machine-typed text, 1970s)


Sources: first published in Moskovskii kontseptualizm [Moscow Conceptualism], eds. Vadim Zakharov and Ekaterina Degot’ (WAM, Moscow, 2005): 357-9.