Cosmic Shift with Alex Anikina, Boris Groys, Anton Vidokle, and Elena Zaytseva

A presentation of the recently published book Cosmic Shift: Russian Contemporary Art Writing (Zed Books, 2017), featuring the lecture “Becoming Cosmic” by contributing author Boris Groys, followed by a conversation between contributing author Anton Vidokle and the book’s co-editor Elena Zaytseva, and a screening of the film Data Field by artist and co-editor Alex Anikina.

Boris Groys, “Becoming Cosmic”
During modernity we have become accustomed to understanding human beings as determined by the social milieu in which they live, as knots in informational networks, as organisms dependent on their environment. But Earth is not isolated in the Cosmos. It relies on processes that take place in cosmic space—on black matter, waves and particles, star explosions, and galactic collapses. In the 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche was already describing our material world, of which the human being is only a part, as the setting for the eternal battle between Apollonian and Dionysian forces or, in other words, between Cosmos and Chaos. There are only two ways of reacting to this battle: either an ecstatic embrace of Chaos or an attempt to control the Cosmos and secure its victory over Chaos. Russian thinkers, poets, and artists from the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th centuries were theorizing and conceptualizing both approaches, at a time when Russia was on the verge of a revolution that would plunge the whole country into total chaos.

Alex Anikina, Data Field
2017 | Video, 24 min
Alex Anikina’s new film is weaved around the artist’s family house – built by her great-grandfather in the village of Chichevo, near Kolomna – as material and as an intimate site of storytelling, fiction, and history. From this house, a small witness to the tumultuous events and shifts undergone by rural Russia in the twentieth century, the film embarks on an experiment in narrative scale-shifting, calling on monumental points in Russia’s history such as the fall of the Tunguska meteorite in 1908, and the death of Lenin in 1924.
In the process the film exposes the folkloric origins of contemporary media. Cosmic instances break into the simple image of the house: the shadow of catastrophe looms in the background of a news broadcast; the iconic image of a Russian field fills the screen; an industrialization propaganda poster doubles as everyday sci-fi. These instances hint at para-historical networks in which images and other media travel non-linearly, as stubborn agents persisting through replicas and minutes of footage.

Cosmic Shift: Russian Contemporary Art Writingedited by Alex Anikina and Elena Zaytseva
(Zed Books, October 5, 2017)
Hailed as a 2017 Book of the Year by the Times Literary Supplement, the book Cosmic Shift is the first anthology of Russian contemporary art writing to be published outside Russia, featuring many of the country’s most prominent contemporary artists, writers, philosophers, curators, and historians including Barte de Baere, Boris Groys, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Bogdan Mamonov, Andrey Monastyrsky, Pavel Pepperstein, Dmitri Prigov, Masha Sumnina, Anton Vidokle, and Arseny Zhilyaev among others.
Examining the region’s various movements of contemporary art, culture, and theory from communism, cosmism, and conceptualism to past and future futures, the collection has been praised as “an incredible insight into not only contemporary writing on Russian art but writing as art in Russia” (Adrian George, The Curators Handbook).

Alex Anikina is an artist, researcher, and filmmaker. She is currently a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths where she is also Assistant Lecturer in Film and Audiovisual Studies.

Boris Groys is an art critic, media theorist and philosopher. He is Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, Senior Research Fellow at the Karlsruhe University of Art and Design, and Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School (EGS).

Anton Vidokle is an artist and co-editor of e-flux journal.

Elena Zaytseva is an independent curator, writer, and art historian, and formerly curator at the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow and at Pushkin House, London.

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