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Factories of Resurrection: Interview with Anton Vidokle

Arseny Zhilyaev: Your recent films, which deal with the problematic of Russian cosmism, may come across as strange or even exotic. I know that your initial encounter with this topic was rather unusual. How did you start to work with this subject?

Anton Vidokle: About ten years ago Boris Groys told me about a very strange movement in Russia around the time of the Revolution. His description of it sounded so macabre and vampiric that I thought he had invented it. The story was too good to be real: the resurrection of the dead on spaceships, blood transfusions to suspend aging, and so on. It sounded like a science fiction novel. He said he had published a book on this in Germany, but unfortunately I do not speak German, so I did not pursue it. Then a few years ago I was doing an interview with Ilya Kabakov when he started talking about the same thing. I suddenly realized that it was not just Groys’s invention, so looked it up.

What I found was Fedorov’s book The Common Task, which was so intensely beautiful that it hooked me immediately. Also useful was The Russian Cosmists: The Esoteric Futurism of Nikolai Fedorov and His Followers, a history by George Young, who has been researching this topic since the late Seventies. I slowly discovered that this is actually a very massive layer of Russian and Soviet culture that I knew nothing about, and which seemed to explain certain inexplicable things about the motives and thoughts of the avant-garde, which has always interested me.

AZ: Can you tell me more about the origins of your film The Communist Revolution Was Caused By the Sun? Where did the idea come from? How did you develop the work? You chose to shoot the film in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, a rather unusual location. The landscape, with its Soviet industrial architecture and Muslim cemeteries, looks very weird even to Russians.

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