</Ivan Florensky: My name is Ivan Florensky and I am an artist, a philosopher, a human, a Christian>
author: Katya Ceppel
</odra> platform is aimed to uncover new names in contemporary art and culture. We continue talking about emerging artists whose practice reflects modernity with its historical roots, geographical dimension, and the values and identities of particular social groups. Ivan Florensky, son of the artist Vasily Florensky and a great-grandson of the philosopher Pavel Florensky, who was repressed in the USSR, is a syncretic artist, theologian and philosopher, at the same time a DJ and vinyl dealer. Ivan is going to kick-start a new section /sound, where he would create a music room, with new sets of different musicians.

This interview is a story of one man who is constantly asking himself philosophical questions of existence, looking for beauty even where it is not obvious and living by the Christian canons, even when playing electronic music. Interview encompasses three areas of activity in three parts: family, contemporary art and DJing.
K: How do you define yourself? ‘My name is Ivan Florensky and I am a…’

I: My name is Ivan Florensky and I am an artist, a philosopher, a human, a Christian. It's all matter, the order is not so important. But what is more important that I am a synthesist. I would say that all of this merges into a Personality. However this is a difficult question, whether a human is a Personality or how much of this he or she could be. Or maybe we are just a clot of socio-cultural influences during our life experience.
K: How often do you ask this question yourself?

I: All the time. This is one of the most important topics for me. It's important to understand your origins, and if you try to analyze them, you can more clearly understand your inner motivations and who you are, whether you exist. Is there a Self outside of this context, is there some clot of you as an absolute subject that is independent of socio-cultural influences and would manifest itself in one way or another in other contexts. If I had been born into a different family, would there exist a certain Personality of me, at least only 1%. I think this is a complicated question and there is no one definite answer.

I think there is a some small part that is not just posterior, that is formed after all the sociocultural influences – language, native, country, city, education, etc. – and there is a small part as some You, which is absolutely unique and equal to itself. I think so.
K: Well, let’s talk about family continuity and legacy, which, obviously, play a big role for you. Even now, we are in your studio, which is your father’s studio at the same time. What does family mean for you and what place does it take in your artistic formation?

I: I’ve been just talking to my friend today, that it’s of paramount importance to one to analyze one’s inner roots. Not just to reflect upon the way you sense the world, but to comprehend one’s own motives in one’s behavior and one’s worldview. The research field is very wide, it's almost everything that surrounds us.

It's your native language, the place where you live, your surroundings, your education, your family, your ancestors, your religion or non-religion. All these things combine to form your personality, a broad socio-cultural context, and in it, of course, a big role is played by my father, who in any case passed on his genes to me, and I believe that not only the chemical component is passed on, but also some psychological peculiarities, character traits. They influenced me a lot in terms of aesthetics and all sorts of things. And that includes a passion for painting as something valuable in itself, the ability to appreciate and love painting outside of conceptual art, which I probably do to a lesser extent than he does, but it's still important to me. It's also about the relationship of color, composition, that is self-valuable in the inner aesthetic sense.
K: And sure I can't miss the opportunity to ask about your famous great-great-grandfather, Pavel Florensky. What role did his personality play in your life? How defining is this person for you? You've been studying his legacy for years. How much depth have you reached in your study of Florensky's philosophy?

[Pavel Florensky is a Russian Orthodox theologian, priest, philosopher, mathematician, physicist, electrical engineer, inventor, polymath and neomartyr. In 1937, Pavel Florensky was sentenced to capital punishment by the NKVD and shot. - ed. by </odra>]
I: Here again we can go back to the question of origins. In many ways his worldview and life philosophy are close to me. But when you talk about analyzing your own worldview, it's important to find points that, if you realize that you're borrowing from somewhere, you can feel how intuitive they are to you, how close they are to you or not. And you have to be able to either accept them or reject them. In many ways, the positions that he expressed are close to me, so you could say that yes, he influenced me.

Speaking on studies, I am not even in the top 50 researchers of Florensky, or even 100. Yes, as part of my undergraduate and master's degrees I have written works, and as part of my PhD thesis I also study Florensky and his legacy, but sure I a, not the largest Florensky researcher. My main sense of him is intuitive rather than scientific. I pass through his texts intuitively, though as a researcher certainly too.
K: Just a point that's interesting, how do you separate the subject of your research from yourself and can you study it dispassionately, especially when it’s about your relative?

I: I think that's impossible in general. Not in the framework where you're researching the legacy of your ancestor, even if it's quite distant, I think even when any researcher explores his subject, he's not completely impartial and objective. Because he views it as an object, but he still brings the subjective to the study of his object. So I don't think it's possible until absolutely, to a certain extent, sure. One can say that one researcher is more objective in the study of some author than another, and how objective or not I am is not for me to judge.

K: Tell me more about your relationship with religion. You are also a theologian. How in your universe do your roles - an artist, a philosopher, a theologian - come together? Do you separate them somehow, or are they all part of the same thing?

I: I am synthetic in my worldview, so for me it's all one. Art in relation to my own inner transformation and religious life is essentially secondary, but at the same time art work is a kind of approach to becoming a good Christian. So I don't separate that. It is clear that these are different spheres - church life and life in art - but it seems to me that art can and perhaps even should translate your inner worldview. And if it is Christian and could be reflected in art.

K: As a philosopher, what other important meaning-making questions of being do you ask yourself that help you move and search for yourself? Except the first one about existing of the Self we have already discussed..

I: One of them is the so-called argument about universals, which asks whether there are absolute universals that are above things. This can be reduced to the question of the relation of things to Platonic ideas. There is the position that universals are objective and they really exist, and there is the position that they don't exist and all the words we use to denote things we come up with afterwards, and there is the position that they exist and, pushing back from that, from the world of spirit, we come up with words. I think this is an important and one of the central questions of the whole history of philosophy. All questions about language also rest here, questions about narrative also in many ways.

Of course, another key question for man is the question of death. On the one hand, this is possible, but on the other hand it is not, because the subject is unable to experience his own death. Plato says in the mouth of Socrates: "What do I care about death, because when I am there is no death, and when there is death, I am not. So the question of how we can experience death is also a rather difficult one, which in existential philosophy is probably the key point of experience and experience that pushes you to look at the world from a new angle.

Ivan Florensky at his art studio, 2022

Here I need to talk about my own conception of how the worldview and worldview of each subject is constructed in general. Within this system, I think there are certain axioms that every subject, the individual, accepts for himself. These axioms can be designated as Kant's antinomies, among them is the question of the existence or non-existence of God, the question of the existence or non-existence of the spiritual world, whether there is only a material world or whether there is a material and spiritual world, and the question of if there is a spiritual world, which is higher, the material or the spiritual, and here logically it follows that if you have recognized the spiritual, it would probably be higher than the material material world.
And another question that rests on the axiom is the question of where we are going, that is, whether man is degenerating with the course of history or evolving or stagnating.

This question is naturally tethered to the question of spirit, because if spirit is and spirit is higher, you recognize evolution or degradation or stagnation only in the system of spirit. We can say that materially we do evolve in something, although this is also debatable, it may be a conditional development, but spiritually we can also either evolve or degrade. Again, I am not saying anything new, in fact I am postulating the Christian worldview that spiritually we degenerate. There is spiritual degradation after the fall into sin, and material degradation is secondary.

In these axioms I have made up my mind. I accept the axiom that there is a God, I accept the axiom that the world is degrading, spiritual in the first place, and I accept that there is a spiritual world. From these axioms my worldview is constructed. And each subject, in answering these axiomatic questions for himself, can neither refute nor confirm his answer. Each subject, accepting these or those axioms, builds his picture of the world, and in this respect you should be ironic about other positions, because you should understand that your worldview, as well as the worldview of others, is based on irrefutable and simultaneously unsupported axioms.

Florensky family studio, Moscow

K: From the art studio, let's move on to the space of your first big solo exhibition at CCI Fabrika, a Moscow-based art institution that has been supporting emerging artists for many years. I would say right away that it was interesting to explore it alone, feeling as much as possible the abandonment around and the same in your works. Is it intentional that there is no human being in your works? Or is the viewer the subject?

I: I was showing the exhibition to a writer today and he made an interesting point about the exhibition that I really liked. ‘To a certain extent, God sort of looks at his creations and looks at how people got things done, how they were able to overcome their own inner damage and how they were able to do something’. That's an interesting interpretation. What is close to me is that the viewer can form his or her own feeling and then become familiar with the concept that the author offers. Art should speak for itself, without any text, because it can and should do so. ‘A true work bears the imprint of the spirit and it will reveal itself in spite of....’

Solo exhibition at CCI Fabrika, Ivan Florensky, Moscow, 2022

K: Why are pipes the main character? How do you find locations? Do you go into them, do you explore the space itself? Or like you said above, you use photographs?

I: I once did a tour of places of power in the Teply Stan area [area in Moscow – ed.], where we are now. There's a thermal power plant, a gas station, most of the places I know personally and I took pictures of them myself. There are a few shots I got from movies, documentaries, such as one about nuclear power plants, one about travel and a story from Apatite, but most I photographed myself.

By the way, one work is called ‘Homage DL’ stands for ‘Homage to David Lynch’ because it was taken from one of David Lynch's photographs. Speaking of pipes and the origins of creativity and internal construction, in many ways I was influenced by directors like David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kuarismäki, three names that I would highlight first and foremost. The aesthetics of emptiness and the industrial landscape are very evident in all three of them, but primarily in David Lynch.

Specifically, why the pipe, I would attribute it to an intuitive perception. There is no rational explanation. These are subjective symbolic and semantic structures that just somehow somehow felt and felt to me. Not because the pipe is a symbol of human consumption, but simply, apparently, their energy, energy, metaphysics resonated in me.

K: In many of your works there is an emptiness, a night, an evening, dark colors, but there is a glimmer of hope, at least according to my personal feeling. So, for you, is there more hope or darkness around you? I mean not only your art works, but in general. What is your personal mood for the future, is it more optimistic, based on these glimmers of hope, or not?

I: It could be phrased as ‘pessimism about this world and optimism about the celestial one’. Where this world is our, material world, the world of things, and the celestial world is the world of the spirit, the world of ideas. I don't have any optimistic views about the former, but I do have optimistic views about the spirit world and how one can become part of a spiritual and luminous world and bring that light into the world that is basically filled with pessimism.

About the work, yes, you said it well, that hope is felt and it is everywhere. And I don't think there's anything wrong with darkness, that night. In general, even though all the landscapes are kind of depressing, in any case it's important for me to see aesthetics and beauty in something so unsightly, maybe even philistine, more negative than positive. And in the text, I write that to be able to see beauty even in the unsightly is to be able to see the potency for the beautiful, for becoming a beautiful person and for the transformation of both the person and the world following it.

K: Is there still hope for this transformation in our world?

I: There is always hope, of course. In principle, my exhibition is deeply Christian and postulates a profound Christian understanding of being, where our world is doomed to fall, which must happen sooner or later, and then rebirth and transformation happen. I am not saying anything new here, but I am postulating my Christian Orthodox worldview, which says that there will be the second advent, the end of this world and the beginning of a new spiritual world. So naturally there is hope.

Katya: You listen to a lot of music. You've already named three directors, but three musicians? Is that even possible? Do you single anyone out? Or in the volume and flow in which you listen, is it already impossible?

Vanya [sighs]: There are so many musicians and bands that I like, that I find it difficult to single out three. I can single out, for example, two that have had a global impact on the history of music and are close to me personally. They are Johann Sebastian Bach and Mozart. In art and music as well, and music in general I consider separately and consider as one of the most powerful, I would say that I am close to a piece of music that conveys a certain image that is close to me. It can be an image of harmonious structure that can manifest itself in anything. It could be a well clavier and it could be some composition by the German band Can. And the second point is the image of some kind of worldview. For example, a landscape conveys a longing for an imperfect world and in many ways I am close to music that conveys that image to a certain extent. The genres can be very different. It's a lot of synth wave, post-punk and minimal wave from the 80's, which is close to me lately. Although I love avant-garde jazz as well, including Soviet jazz. Music plays a big role for me and I work to it and sometimes play records as a DJ.

DJ Ivan Florensky, 2022

Katya: OK, you are also a vinyl dealer. How is it going now in Russia?

I've been collecting vinyl since I was 19, more actively in the last five years. Vinyl dealership is not the best word by the way, but two and a half years ago my dad's friend, Stas Timofeev, suggested that I get into selling it. I've been doing it ever since, supplying some bookstores. In Russia the situation is generally normal and gaining popularity, even today, everything that appears on vinyl in the West also appears here, but obviously more expensive and it takes longer to wait.
Listen more.

1 / DJ set at Blanc, Moscow, Feb 2022.

"One of the most important things in art is an image. That’s not the depiction of an object, it’s a unit perceived in its wholeness. It is supposed to be revealed to one in the union of physical feelings, or emotions, intellectual analysis, if needed, and some kind of spiritual, metaphysical perception or experience of a perceiver. As far as the life of a true image begins with emotions and metaphysical experience of a perceiver, image hardly exists without a viewer (nevertheless it’s still a vital, unsolved issue, if the image, or art, which fails to find its essence without the image, can exist as an independent metaphysical object even without being perceived). So, the only and the best way, to my mind, to perceive a piece of sound art, which here happens to be a DJ-set, is to perceive it on different levels: emotional, intellectual and metaphysical. This gives one an opportunity not to try to find something that was meant, but find something that independently exists, against or according to the author’s will."

2 / DJ set at Shivorot Bar, Aug 2022.