Look to the Stars
The future isn’t what it used to be – no one seems to talk about it so much these days. Of course, this wasn’t always the case: in the 1960s Eastern Bloc, artists, scientists, engineers and architects were conscripted to realize the Utopia of full-blown Communism. And the future meant space travel.
This is the subject of Star City, a smart new group show at Nottingham Contemporary curated by director Alex Farquharson and Lukasz Ronduda, which looks back at Communism’s visions of the future. (Martin Herbert’s review of Notts Contemporary’s opening show, David Hockney/Frances Stark, is here.) The subject of a 2000 film by Jane and Louise Wilson, Star City is also the USSR’s once-secret cosmonaut training facility just outside of Moscow (which, sweetly, actually translates closer to something like ‘Starry Town’).
As frieze contributor Owen Hatherley noted in Militant Modernism (2009), ‘A history of the Soviet avant-garde could be written through its aspirations of the interstellar.’ This was one of the many subjects of last Friday’s rangy ‘Futurological Congress’ in Nottingham. Named for the 1971 Stanisław Lem novel, the day-long event looked at the fictional and political implications of the space race, and saw enlightening contributions from Cold War Modern curator David Crowley, ‘Star City’ co-curator Ronduda (on Julius Koller), The Otolith Group’s Kodwo Eshun and Russian Studies professor Rolf Hellebust, among others.
Other highlights included Otolith’s performance–lecture Communists Like Us (look out for Nina Power’s monograph on Otolith in the March issue of frieze, out next week), a guided bus tour led by Pawel Althamer and great documentation of Aleksandra Mir’s 2007 Gravity project at the Roundhouse, for which she fabricated a spaceship – watch it below:
‘Star City’ runs until 17 April 2010.