This Is Cosmos
Anton Vidokle, with Boris Groys

Conversation Documentation
Friday, April 10, 2015

Artist Anton Vidokle’s film This Is Cosmos (2014) draws on the thinking of the early 20th Century Russian philosophical movement “cosmism.” The “Cosmo-Immortalists” combined elements of theology and ethics, linking the Western Enlightenment with Russian Orthodoxy and Eastern philosophical traditions, as well as Marxism, to create an idiosyncratically concrete metaphysics.

Filmed in Siberia, Crimea, and Kazakhstan, This Is Cosmos draws on diverse materials including poems, philosophical texts, scientific writings, academic papers, and historical studies. It particularly centers on the writings of the philosopher Nikolai Fedorov, who believed that death was a mistake, “because the energy of cosmos is indestructible, because true religion is a cult of ancestors, because true social equality is immortality for all.” Fedorov advocated the development of scientific methods for the radical extension of life, and the resurrection of the dead.

For the Russian cosmists, cosmos did not mean outer space: rather, they wanted to create “cosmos” on earth. “To construct a new reality, free of hunger, disease, violence, death, need, inequality – like communism.” Vidokle’s film re-engages this Utopian project, seeking out the traces of such philosophy after the end of the Soviet Union and in the present day.

This program is organized in conjunction with Hito Steyerl’s exhibition at Artists Space, and is rooted in the long running exchange of ideas between Steyerl and Vidokle. e-flux journal, which Vidokle co-edits with Julieta Aranda and Brian Kuan Wood, has served as an important context for Steyerl’s writing, alongside many other authors. After the screening Vidokle will be joined by another regular contributor to the journal, art historian Boris Groys, to discuss the ideas at work in This Is Cosmos.

Anton Vidokle is an artist and co-editor of e-flux Journal. He has exhibited work internationally at venues including Documenta 13, the Venice Biennale, and Tate Modern. As a founder of e-flux, he has organized An Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary Life, and the Martha Rosler Library. His other works include Time/Bank, co-organized with Julieta Aranda, and Unitednationsplaza—a twelve-month experimental school in Berlin organized as a response to the unrealized Manifesta 6. Most recently, Vidokle exhibited films in the Montreal Biennale (2084: a science fiction show with Pelin Tan) and at the Shanghai Biennale (This is Cosmos, 2014).

Boris Groys is a philosopher, essayist, art critic, and media theorist. He has served as the curator of several international exhibitions, and is the author of publications including On the New (2014), Introduction to Antiphilosophy (2012); Going Public (2010); Art Power (2008); and The Total Art of Stalin (1992); in addition to numerous articles of art criticism and history. Groys is a Distinguished Professor at New York University; the Center for Art and Media Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany; and the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.