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Art without Death


Anton Vidokle: When Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley (the curators of the Istanbul Design Biennial) told me the subject of the show—the question “Are We Human?”—I immediately thought of the writings of Nikolai Fedorov and other Russian Bio-Cosmists, and their ideas about the unfinished state of human evolution.

Cosmism is a little known intellectual and artistic movement that arose in Russia towards the end of the nineteenth century. At its base is a philosophy of immortality and material resurrection of every person who ever lived through technological means. Starting with Nikolai Fedorov, Russian Cosmists—whose ranks included numerous philosophers, novelists, poets, avant-garde artists, scientists, medical doctors, activists, revolutionaries, and many others—believed that the evolutionary development of humanity is far from complete, and that our main task is to evolve further, using our faculty of reason so as to become immortal ourselves and also to return all of our dead ancestors to life. Since the capacity of Earth to support this enormous resurrected and immortal population will be insufficient, Cosmists advocated the development of space travel, colonization of other planets, and human expansion throughout the Universe.

Bio-Cosmists advocated a complete reconstruction of society and human relations, as well as a metabolic reconstruction of our biological body in such a way that it can regenerate limbs and organs, exist without oxygen, derive energy directly from the sun like plants do, and also become androgynous or transsexual in the sense that the need for distinct genders and sexual reproduction would end once immortality and the resurrection of all previous generations became possible.

If this question “Are We Human?” was posed to Fedorov or any other cosmist, they would probably say no, because we have not yet perfected our design and have not overcome death.

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