From the end of 1970-s Abalakova and Zhigalov who began their artistic career in 1960-s started working on the Project «Explorations into the Essence of Art as applied to Life and Art» (TOTART). The Project is an extended artistic event or condition that approaches the Russian avant-guard of the twenties in one direction but also points to the future. The Project is a creative process in which art comes to know itself. The aim is to fill the gap between the Russian avant-guard and contemporary art, which developed in the specific conditions of Soviet reality, and, based on this reality, seeks a language which will adequately function in both a native and international context.
The following issues are of importance to the Project:
The boundary and definition of art (by means of artistic provocations); the merging of life and art and the intrusion of life into art (programmed and accidental situations); the relationship between artist and the audience (subject-object-work-audience-viewer etc.); art as a means of communication (an artistic event as a stimulus to creative contact and decision making); a work of art as an open-closed system (an autonomous self-regulating system, that is not destroyed by outside intrusions); art in its social surroundings (engagedness; “order” and “chaos”; art as the society “free convertible currency”; art as the “erogenous zone” of the social body; art in condition of freedom and captivity etc.).
The methods of realizing the Project are very varied. It is TOTART - Total Art. The performers of the general Project use the language of paintings and graphics to develop specific “projects”; in TOTART performances, action, “situations”, “accidental theatre”, objects, installations, cinema, video are all of particular importance. One of the basic elements of TOTART, however, is an artists themselves: they are the subjects and objects of their artistic process; they are Man and Woman - two poles that create a tension in which the audience defines itself with respect to the act of creation of “a work of art”, at the same time undergoing a re-evaluation of values and experiencing “the reality” of his presence at this particular place and at this particular time.
In their recent individual and joint works the artists pursue a polemic with Russian Constructivism in which they promote and suggest a new type of active art - TOTART.
(«Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov Zhigalov. Works 1961-1989». New Beginnings. Soviet Art in Glasgow 1989. Third Eye Gallery and E.V.Vuchetich Artistic Production Association )