Zero Gravity Revolt. Nikolay Oleynikov (Chto Delat and more)

Elena Sorokina

Let us consider that this is a museum of past intergalactic revolutionary events, which began on December 15, 2013. At that point, Earth was collapsing—economically as much as ecologically. Hu Jintao took over the presidency of the European Union for undetermined time. The elites of the Earth, understandably worried about their security, decided to move to the perfectly neoliberal and well-organized gated communities on the moon. For entertainment purposes, and to resist the spell of nostalgia, they decided to invite a number of artists. However, since even on the Moon, the inhabitable space had become scarce, the artists had to be put into a cocoon—an artificial satellite called Zero Dream Factory. Inside, the gravity was zero; the time was subjective, and thus, the working time was unlimited.

“WE ALL REMEMBER THAT DAY. THE DAY WE LOOKED INTO THE SKY THAT HAD BECOME RED FROM THE POLLUTION AND HAD NO STARS, AND AT LAST WE SAW A REMINDER OF HOPE IN THE FORM OF AN EMBLEM OF INTERGALACTIC UNION PROJECTED INTO THE CLOUDS. THE DAY WHEN, FOR A COUPLE OF HOURS, EVERYTHING STOPPED ON PLANET EARTH, BECAUSE ALL THE NATIONS WERE GLUED TO THEIR MEDIA SCREENS, WATCHING THE LATEST NEWS REPORT. THAT WAS THE DAY THE INTERPLANETARY AGREEMENT WAS FINALLY SIGNED AFTER A YEAR OF HESITATION, AND THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STRONGEST GALACTIC COALITIONS (AT THAT POINT EARTH, MOON AND VENUS) FOR THE FIRST TIME GREETED EACH OTHER WITH TWO FLAPS ON THE SHOULDER. THAT’S WHERE OUR NEW HISTORY BEGAN. NO ONE COULD PREDICT WHAT LIFE WOULD BE LIKE THEREAFTER. OF COURSE, NO ONE WOULD EVER HAVE IMAGINED THAT IT COULD SPREAD INTO A REVOLUTION.”
(Recorded by Anastasia Starikova at the collective writing session)

Levitation in space triggered an intergalactic revolutionary explosion

In early Soviet science fiction, revolutions happened all over the Solar system—on Mars, on the Moon, and of course on Earth. Full of vivid social imagination, its authors described cosmic class struggles and social upheavals booming in space, both forceful and impetuous. The labor of revolution was, however, supposed to be the building block for the future conditions of labor. And here the revolutionary dynamics often got stuck on a single question: How will future humanity work? Should it work at all? Many writers of the 1920s–1930s hesitated between the abolition of labor, its extreme technologization and either its hyper-acceleration or a total creativisation. Some opted for a creative form of non-labor and described the inhabitants of the future as dancing, singing, painting creatures, who also regularly engage in unassisted flight. Like art, levitation and flight are considered to be creative pastimes that keep the new humanity busy. But neither painting, nor dance, nor levitation entail any "work". This opinion was disputed by some. In Vladimir Mayakovsky's muscular utopia, The Flying Proletarian, written in 1925 and set in the year 2025, levitation and work become an admirable unity. Assisted and unassisted flights are part of everyday life. The proletariat dominates the sky. Streets are no longer necessary; only airports are scattered throughout the city. Every worker goes on a private jet to her/his fully mechanized working place. And after work, there are cosmic dances...

Vladimir Mayakovsky. Excerpts from The Flying Proletarian, 1925

FACTORY.
FORTY-FLOORED BUILDING.
GOT OFF.
THE FORTY—IN FIERCE ZEAL.
ULTRA-CLEAN. NO SOOT,
NO SMOKE.
LIFT
DELIVERS
ONE TO EACH FLOOR.
NO BUZZING,
NO CROWDS!
ONE KEYBOARD— LIKE AN “UNDERWOOD”.
NICE WORK!
EASY ALREADY,
BUT FURTHER
THE RADIO—
MUSIC BEATING TIME.
HIT LETTERS,
RIGHT ONES,
ALL
THE REST
ENGINES MANAGED.

EVENING. 
CALL.
—HALLO!
CAN’T CATCH THE NAME… 
OH! 
IT’S YOU! 
HI, DARLING! 
AM COMING! 
IMMEDIATELY! 
IN FIVE MINUTES 
TAKE IN STRIDE 
THE FULL-LENGTH SKY. 
IN SUCH WEATHER 
IT’S NICE TO TRAVEL. 
WAIT— 
NEAR THE CLOUD—
UNDER THE GREAT BEAR. 
GOOD BYE!— 
GOT IN,
MOVED BACKWARDS
SQUARES,
BUILDINGS…
CHEEK—TO CHEEK,
WAIST—TO WAIST,—
MAYBE THREE TIMES CIRCUMNAVIGATED
THE SKY.
ALONG MILKY WAYS
ALONG COMET CURVES,
BEHIND—
AS A FOAL—
A TETHERED AEROPLANE.


A revival of Mayakovsky's poem as a cartoon in 1962. Collage aesthetics and the geometric minimalism of the images translate the proletariat's useful levitation into a "theatrical cartoon-utopia". In the cartoon, the proletariat is flat and weightless, and the work is light as the air—practically non-existent.]

http://multmir.net/multfilm-3007-letayushchiy-proletariy

Levitation as a hard scientific labor was most prominently theorized by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1858–1935), the legendary space scientist but also a sci-fi writer. In his novels, people must work hard in order to overcome the force of gravity. At the end of his life, he was invited as a script writer for the film The Space Voyage, released in 1936. Reportedly, it was the first-ever movie that depicted conditions of zero gravity with help of advanced special effects. After the spaceship leaves the Earth’s orbit, the crew's professor announces with scientific authority: "Be careful! Remember that you have lost gravity!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoAiYmeDvxc
The Space Voyage, 1936 


Unlike Mayakovsky's flying proletariat or Tsiolkovsky's levitating professors, the precariat of the Zero Dream Factory levitates in different conditions, and in entirely different moods. Levitation is work, work is levitation, and there is no ground at all. Impossible to feel where one is flying or falling.

“WE WERE JUST THE USUAL NOMADS OF ART. MOSTLY—JOBLESS YOUTHS, AFFLICTED WITH A COUPLE OF ADDICTIONS AND NEUROSES, TRYING TO MAKE OUR LIVING SOMEHOW. OF COURSE, WHEN SOMEONE COMES UP TO YOU AND ASKS POLITELY IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A PROPER CREATIVE JOB THAT WON’T DISTURB YOUR BORDERS OF CREATION OR YOUR CONCEPTS; AND ON THE CONTRARY, WILL EVEN BE THE EMBODIMENT OF THE ULTIMATE, ABSOLUTE CREATIVE PRODUCTION, YOU THINK THAT IT IS NOT SUCH A BIG DEAL TO MOVE TO THE MOON. WHAT WOULD WE GET HERE? A DYING PLANET THAT REMINDS US OF AN OVER-POPULATED OVEN, WHERE SOON WE WILL ALL BE SITTING ON EACH OTHER’S HEADS, AND A NOTION THAT SOMEWHERE, SOMEWHERE, THERE IS A BIGGER PIECE OF A TART...” “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IF I WERE ASKED WHERE I WOULD LIKE TO GO, CHINA OR THE MOON? I’VE HEARD THAT ON THE MOON YOU CAN FLY, OF AT LEAST TRY TO HANG YOURSELF IN SPACE. THAT’S PRETTY AWESOME...”
Recorded by Anastasia Starikova during the collective writing session

IF THE CLASSICAL IDEAL OF ART IS A KIND OF ELEVATION, LIFTING UP OR SPIRITUALIZATION, ONE WAY OF CHARACTERIZING CONTEMPORARY ART IS AS AN “ART OF THE FALL”.1RATHER THAN THE MIRACULOUS FLIGHT OF THE SAINT, ITS ICONIC FIGURE IS THE WELL-TIMED TUMBLE OF THE SLAPSTICK ARTIST. IN SHORT: BUSTER KEATON IN PLACE OF ST. JOSEPH.

PARADOXICALLY, WHILE YOU ARE FALLING, YOU WILL PROBABLY FEEL AS IF YOU ARE FLOATING—OR NOT EVEN MOVING AT ALL. FALLING IS RELATIONAL—IF THERE IS NOTHING TO FALL TOWARD, YOU MAY NOT EVEN BE AWARE THAT YOU’RE FALLING. IF THERE IS NO GROUND, GRAVITY MIGHT BE LOW AND YOU’LL FEEL WEIGHTLESS. OBJECTS WILL STAY SUSPENDED IF YOU LET GO OF THEM. WHOLE SOCIETIES AROUND YOU MAY BE FALLING JUST AS YOU ARE. AND IT MAY ACTUALLY FEEL LIKE PERFECT STASIS—AS IF HISTORY AND TIME HAVE ENDED AND YOU CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER THAT TIME HAD EVER MOVED FORWARD.


This exhibition is based on 
ZERO GRAVITY REVOLT 
Nikolay Oleynikov (Chto Delat and more) A learning mural in collaboration with:
John Bijnens, Laurie Charles, Elisa Espen, Jeremy Fournet, Meryll Hardt, Benjamin Installé, Ekaterina Kaplunova, Georgia Kokot, Sebastien Pauwels, Arthuro Sallustro, Anastasia Starikova, Kim Vansina; curated by Elena Sorokina at Komplot in Brussels. Photos documenting the mural and levitation workshop by Jagna Ciuchta, Nikolay Oleynikov, and Sebastien Pauwels. Choreographer Ula Sickle

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  • 1.  See Gérard Wajcman, “Desublimation: An Art of What Falls”, Lacanian Ink, no. 29 (Spring 2007).