Anton Vidokle - Immortality for All
April 27–July 21, 2019
Talk with Soo-Hwan Kim and Anton Vidokle: June 27, 3–5pm
The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA, Director Youn Bummo) presents Anton Vidokle: Immortality for All from April 27 to July 21 at MMCA Seoul, Gallery 6. This is the first solo museum exhibition of the artist in Korea. The exhibition introduces Vidokle’s film trilogy on the philosophy of Russian Cosmism, which was researched and produced over a five year period starting in 2013, as well as a detailed timeline of this unusual philosophical movement, and a small reading room of cosmist literature.
Russian Cosmism is a school of thought developed in the late 19th century by the Russian librarian Nikolai Fedorov (1828–1903). His philosophical successors included numerous illustrious artists, writers, philosophers, scientists, and revolutionaries, such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Kasimir Malevich, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and Leon Trotsky, among many others. With an awareness of the inseparability between the cosmos and humankind, cosmism urges us to explore space travel and stride forth to inhabit the universe, while developing various forms of technology to gain material immortality and resurrect all of our ancestors, starting with the first people on Earth. While this philosophy was extremely influential in the early years following the Communist Revolution, it was banned in the 1930s and nearly completely forgotten, only to resume in the 1990s, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russian Cosmism continues to be actively discussed today as a philosophical alternative to capitalism and neo-liberalism, Western rationalism and individualism.
This Is Cosmos (2014), the first film in Vidokle’s trilogy, introduces key concepts in cosmist thought. The second film, The Communist Revolution Was Caused By The Sun (2015), presents the solar cosmology of Alexander Chizhevsky (1897–1964), who theorized how the periodical changes in the life of the sun impact human social life and history. The last film, Immortality and Resurrection For All! (2017), is based on a key essay by Nikolai Fedorov, “The Museum, its Meaning and Mission”—a meditation on the institution of the museum as a site of resurrection, an idea central to cosmist theories.
The backdrop to Vidokle’s work might be current private, public, and scientific efforts aimed at realizing cosmist-like ideas about colonizing Mars, resurrecting dead or extinct organisms, reversing aging, transfusing blood, and engineering the climate. The interest of Vidokle’s trilogy is, however, not a journalistic story about applied cosmism in the 21st century. Instead, Vidokle seeks to reignite the speculative and experimental undercurrents in cosmist undertakings and thoughts, which are still at odds with the world and continue to expand and trouble our imagination and worldviews. While the films, shot on various locations in Russia and the former Soviet Union, make use of certain codes dear to documentary filmmaking, the films do not so much document cosmism and its repercussions on site. Rather, they try to evoke it.
All three films do not simply recite and reflect on cosmist thinkers. They also invite people—those who appear in the films as well as those who watch them—to expose themselves to various experiments. The first film, This Is Cosmos, presents itself as “an irradiation session” with “therapeutic effects.” The second film, The Communist Revolution Was Caused By The Sun, includes both a clinical hypnosis script used to quit addictions and a restaging of scientist Chizhevsky’s experiment in the effects of negatively and positively charged air on biological organisms. The third film, Immortality and Resurrection for All!, toys with experimental therapy involving a special flicker effect used to treat deterioration of memory.
Inside the venue, a chronological timeline of Russian Cosmism is outlined to help the audience better understand the development of the theories. On June 27, Anton Vidokle will be visiting the MMCA for a public talk with Soo-Hwan Kim, professor of Russian language and literature at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
Youn Bummo, director of the MMCA, notes, “This exhibition highlighting the experimental works of Anton Vidokle and related archives on the early 20th century Russian philosophy, literature, and cosmology will be a great opportunity to encounter the latest discourses on contemporary art.”
Anton Vidokle (1965, Moscow) lives and works in New York and Berlin. He is the founder of the publishing platform e-flux, which has sparked projects such as e-flux video rental, e-flux journal, and an exhibition space in New York. Films from “Immortality For All: a film trilogy on Russian Cosmism” have been shown at numerous museums, such as Centre Pompidou (2016) and Tate Modern (2017), and various festivals and biennials, including Shanghai Biennale (2014), 65th Berlinale International Film Festival (2015), and the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2016). The second film of the trilogy, The Communist Revolution Was Caused By The Sun (2015), was awarded the Noon Award at the 2016 Gwangju Biennale for its aesthetics, sound, and artistic spirit of experimentation in exploring Russian Cosmism. The MMCA has acquired the full trilogy and will present the films together in one exhibition.