“I see that culture is moving towards overcoming death”

This year’s probably most remarkable exhibition, Citizens of Space, has opened in the New Tretyakov Gallery.

This is a project by Anton Vidokle, in which he explores the influence of Russian cosmism in the 20th century. The exhibition contains three films, as well as the chronology for this direction. Kulturomania talked about cosmism with the curator of the exhibition, Kirill Svetlyakov, who believes that artists in the future will paint with clouds, and Lenin is waiting for the resurrection in the mausoleum.

– Kirill, how was the exhibition created?

– I liked Anton’s films, which I saw for the first time in 2018. An idea arose to make a large exhibition about cosmism, but somehow everyone swayed, and it turned out that the Russian Museum was the first to show an exhibition about cosmism at the beginning of seklet. There is a lot of Russian avant-garde, symbolism, even Roerich. Many of the characters raised questions in general, on what grounds were they …

– Roerich – a cosmist or not?

– Partly. As far as I can tell, the exhibition in St. Petersburg is dominated by cosmic landscapes, but as a curator I am more interested in another subject that cosmic philosophers have dealt with – that is the subject of immortality. It turned out that the philosophy of cosmism is embedded in our cultural code, even if it is not stated and not realized. The theme of overcoming death in Soviet art is very important and big. Comments on some of the works in the permanent exhibition of the New Tretyakov Gallery became part of Anton Vidokle’s exhibition. I wrote them together with Nikolai Smirnov. Then some researchers wondered why in all peace we included artists who had never heard of cosmism at all in this story. But it was important to me that they somehow sent the code of Russian cosmism …

– So we’re talking about the collective unconscious?

– Yes. Yet one of the main themes for a person is to overcome death. It seems ontological to art, but not to modernist 20th century. When you look at works by artists from the era of stagnation, you understand that people were in some other dimension, they already considered themselves dead. This is how you get caught up in the problems of cosmism. It seems to me that this is even more interesting, since the cosmic artists of the early twentieth century, carried by Nikolai Fedorov’s ideas, are known in principle. Our exhibition is about intuitive cosmism, if you will.

– And what is non-intuitive cosmism, Nikolai Fedorov’s cosmism?

In his religious work “Philosophy of the Common Cause”, Fedorov proposed to revive the “fathers” – all living generations. Mankind, united, will have to go into space, because countless generations of “fathers” can not be accommodated in the narrow confines of the earth.

Is cosmism a Russian story or are there similar trends in other cultures?

– It seems to me that cosmism is modernism, so it was not just a Russian idea. Modernism is also called upon to solve the problem of death as the abolition of time. But in Russia it happened that this experience of death was very literal …

Do you mean revolution?

“These are revolutions, this is war, this is oppression. It’s about the experience of being with death nearby. Then, after the great patriotic war, especially during the time of stagnation, time began to bend and people got, so to speak. a feeling that they lived in some kind of perfect future.They both exist and do not exist at the same time.And sometimes people experience immortality, and our exhibition is about that.

– Is Citizens of Space a unique story for the Tretyakov Gallery?

– Yes. We did not bring paintings to the exhibition, because they set a certain hierarchy. The basis of the exhibition is Anton’s three films: “This is space”, “The communist revolution was caused by the sun” and “Immortality and resurrection for all!”. I hope that these works will soon be included in the permanent collection of the Tretyakov Gallery. At the exhibition, we try to analyze current cultural processes. In addition, people remember the predictions made by the famous science fiction writer Arthur Clark in the 1960s at the request of the magazine Technique for Youth.

– Arthur Clark, commissioned by the editorial staff of Technique for Youth, made a forecast for the future? Wow the editorial staff was alive

Yes, and in 1966 he predicted the advent of the Internet, the world library, the emergence of certain technologies. And he promised immortality until the year 2100. This fascinates me a lot. I’m not sure I will live, but what really matters here is the feeling, the perspective. Because modern people do not have a positive image of the future, on the contrary, they have many fears. One of them is the fear of death, which is now worsening. Literally every day we see statistics on deaths. It is one thing when Christianity promised that the separation from the dead is temporary, and that there is life after death. Modern culture offers nothing to man. And cosmism is still such a heretical version of Christianity, but only with the cult of science and knowledge. For it is science that will make the resurrection possible. Do you know why Lenin is in the mausoleum?

– Are you waiting for the resurrection?

– Exactly. By the way, at school, when we were accepted as pioneers at the mausoleum, and this was in the early 1980s, the teacher told us that when we grow up, we will become scientists and find a way to revive Lenin. She did not use the word “resurrection” because of its religious connotations. I believe in science and see the cultural trend towards immortality and resurrection in the future. First, people rejuvenate. Secondly, hologram concerts are very popular now, they go to a live concert. This means that culture is already ready to accept the absence of difference between the living and the dead. The films by Anton Vidokl made a strong impression on me, as I see how people hotly discuss the deceased artists and musicians. They discuss them as if they were alive. This is the specificity of social networks, when everything that is thrown in there is updated. Suffice it to mention the exhibition of Yuri Pimenov. She was so criticized, as if the artist had only painted pictures, as if he were alive. I do not remember such criticism of living masters. The question arises: who is alive? A dead artist whose work provoked a storm of discussion, or a living whose work is of no interest to anyone.

– Do you not think it’s strange that conversations about immortality are conducted outside a religious context? Is the idea of ​​immortality meaningful if there is no God? Does not eternal life become a spider’s web?

Yet, for scientists, for cosmists, God is dead, there is only science.

– So cosmists are non-religious people?

– Not. They have turned science into a religion. At least the biocosmists.

Was not Fedorov himself a religious person?

Fedorov was certainly a theist, but science was very important to him.

Well, for a simple person, he is of course a maniac in the first place. But it was Fedorov who ignited Tsiolkovsky, who developed the basics of theoretical astronautics. These are all avant-garde projects, I would not archive this legacy, as not all programs were implemented. For example, overcoming death, resettlement of humans on other planets and, of course, brotherhood between humans.

“But they are based on the Christian idea, right?”

Yes, Christianity changed its mind about the cult of science. At least it seems to me that it’s interesting to live with it. Some of the cosmists regarded death as just an episode of the way of life, and not the final, as Christians. Now there are surrogates of immortality in social networks. Make yourself an avatar, loop and live …

“But it will be the life of the avatar, not your life.

“These are different life forms. After all, the individuals who may be reconstructed and revived will not be exactly the same people either. If you resurrect Nikolai Fedorov, it is clear that it will not be exactly him. I see that the culture is moving towards overcoming death.Until 2100 there is not much left.But already now they are building cells, constructing genes, viruses.Maybe they come up with something meaningful.

– You said that the Soviet people had a goal in life, a certain vector, but what does a modern man have?

– He has nothing but infantilism and a desire not to grow old. And this man wants some bad people to whitewash. After all, in the modern neoliberal paradigm, not everyone claims to have enough air, water and resources, so humanity must be reduced. This is a Nazi idea, and the Nazis had a cult of death, not a cult of the living and a cult of the resurrection of the dead. Instead of brotherhood – once again incitement to enmity and alienation. Cosmism is a program that can prevent this. The people who came to the exhibition participated in this common cause. Perhaps this will encourage someone to implement Fedorov’s ideas.

– Science is evolving, do you not think that at the same time the interest in esotericism is growing?

Yes, science is evolving, and at the same time the irrational is growing. In this, modern culture differs from the era of modernism, which believed in progress, in rationality. And the irrationality of the late sixties begins to accumulate and pushes into the culture of postmodernity. In this sense, many processes have become more complicated, for example, a scientist will no longer be able to explain a scientific theory to an average person, a person will not understand, but relatively recently he would understand. The dematerialization of science and art still testifies to progress, but it can be experienced as madness, as spiritualism.

– What are your predictions?

– There will be weather control of course. Based on this, works of art will be created, everything from primitive cloud shapes to complex climate stories, museums for climate and microclimate created by artists.

– Will engineer Garin’s hyperboloid work?

– Alternative energy sources should be. But this requires a different social education. We need socialism, which I am sure will return. But only, I think, again with great sacrifices, unfortunately, because the owners are unlikely to voluntarily separate from the seized resources.

Why is there an interest in cosmism now?

– It seems to me that this is about finding a new program, because Western platforms stop working. Anton was looking for an alternative and in a conversation with Boris Groys he learned about cosmism. It turned out that this direction can include any Western program, while remaining an original worldview platform. But before that, I had repeatedly heard that Western discourse is total and there is no other.

– It seems to me that people do not see any discourse at all, except the Western one.

– Again, what’s Western? He is very different. In some programs, art comes to its complete denial as an autonomous sphere. In this sense, such radical trends cross the program of Russian art. The latter sometimes treated art very harshly. Up to a complete rejection of it: there will be life, life building, and no rubbish needed, this is a bourgeois prejudice, and the new art is people who create meaning.

– This is Plato’s world of ideas …

– Yes. This is the dematerialization of art. And this is the current trend. For example, installation. First, structures are created, spaces from labyrinths, mirrors. An environment is created that can be filled with light, sound, scents. You can not touch them, but you can feel them. Of course, the use of perfume in an installation is a primitive move. Sooner or later, such media will be filled with some other matter. Such art can not be photographed. As in our exhibition. There are movies, there are texts, they are perceived as a visual event, and there is an atmosphere.

Elena Serdechnova

Photo: Youtube, screenshot of the lecture “How do you talk about art? Kirill Svetlyakov »

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