</This Is A Wonderful Planet, Isn't It?>
author: Julia Tikhomirova
ENG translation: Mayya Mamedova
The article offers a philosophical analysis of 'The Blooming Moss', artwork by Dunya Frankstein through the prism of philosophy of space and posthumanism. Frankstein’s project includes elements of myth-making and street-art and I think that this combination can be symptomatic for the landscape of contemporary art in Russia. Combining the legacy of conceptualism and the new theology of posthumanism, Frankstein accepts a positive metaphysic of void and desolation.

Moss as it exists in isolation within urban areas is avoided. More precisely, it exists in desolation, it is a void. Or rather, moss is placed beyond and after the emptiness. Above all, the human emptiness (NB. we as humans cannot help thinking with non-human categories) is a void of absence, non-fullness and abandonment. The emptiness of space is an abandonment. Once untapped then fell into ruin and came back as it has been forced out by the ones who untapped the space. In case of human spaces it is nature that has been forced out, especially its the most marginal and unappealing parts as swamps. Oksana Timofeeva (I will appeal several times to her essay 'The Black Matter') writes, recalling Freud and the etymology of unheimlich, that terrifying is the returning of the forced-out, but with a shift, a come-back in a slightly different form, as in exile, as at initiation, an internal structural change occurred, not always visible externally.

So, the void, the medium of which is moss (or it can be mold, for example) is the essence of emptiness, that is, that disturbs with its indifference to man, that is not in the total emptiness of disappearance, but after it. And moss is a part of spatio-temporal field of that kind. Micro topoi of abandonment are abandoned buildings, dilapidated and moss-covered, frozen construction sites that have become heroes of urban folklore, unfinished schools and childhood gardens. They are bypassed, children are made to be scared by them, drug addicts and other marginal (ousted from society) individuals may be found in them. It would seem that natural elements, returned to the urban area, inspire fear and a chaotic desire to prevent the spread of desolation — is the even more thorough repression as a reaction to anxiety caused by moss and swamps their fate?

Dunya Frankstein, link

Dunya Frankstein is a Russian artist, curator and painting restorer. Among her main projects are 'Blooming Moss' and 'Opera-Water', dedicated to reflection on natural phenomena in the modern age. She is a curator of the exhibition Dreams of 90s in Museum of Moscow (2021). Dunya Frankstein also works with a theatre program in the Rails Cultural Center (Tver'). [Instagram is banned u=in Russia]

Her project 'Blooming Moss' was a part of 'Art History Museum' exhibition in Darwin Museum in Moscow (2021).
It is worth drawing attention to the fact that swamps are drained to free up space (emptiness is allowed here as an empty space for a person, just as in the art of bonsai the center is left empty for the divine), which can be used as a site for construction. But what is more, the biggest oilfields are located in Siberian swamps. Swamps are necessary, but only for double exploitation, for existence on the periphery of the country.

Oil is a black viscous substance, which, according to the biogenic theory of its origin, consists of the remains of living organisms. Oil is 'literally occupying the lowest — and the largest stage of the pyramid of exploitation and forming the viscous black core of our capitalist unconscious' [1]. In first glance, this statement is hard to question, especially bearing in mind the saying that oil is tsar and God of the capitalism. However, O. Timofeeva rightly notes that oil is exploitable, and therefore cannot be an exploiter. And therein lies the danger of oil, because the oppressed can rise up against the oppressor. Poetising, it can be said that the ancestors, processed by time into a substance, merged into a viscous black something, will rebel against their descendants. And yet, despite the status of the oppressed, oil remains Total, in the already cited work 'Black Matter' the Great Outer Meillassoux turns inside out and turns out to be the Great Inner, once displaced. Yes, repressed, but still Great, and what is Great is Total. Totality activates enchantment — we can exploit oil, but not neglect it, not respond derogatoryly, despite active use and oppression. And therein lies the difference between the repressed Great Inner and repressed mediums (symptoms) of desolation.

Mosses and swamps are not considered to be Total (Great) Inner, but they may well be read as chthonic, associated with folklore. Nevertheless, the times of universal fear of swampy forests have passed, and therefore they got an unenviable fate — displacement from discourse. The last loud appearance of swamps was marked by the burning peat bogs of 2010, but then, of course, they talked more about smoke than about fire. If they say about oil in one way or another: petrodollars, for example, are one of the ways of representing Russia abroad, then the swamps remained outside the brackets and their only refuge is metaphorical. In contrast to the oil-based representation of oneself in front of the Other, the swamps remain a metaphor within Russia. 'We live in a swamp', 'you can get stuck here', an anecdote about a puddle from the film 'Nostalgia' by Andrei Tarkovsky. The swamp field is a metaphor, even a euphemism for political and social desolation, while the so-called swamp of swamps completely dissolves into a metaphor, the essence of the swamp and its independent life are not read. One could even say that it is the swamps that are the repressed unconscious of Russia, placed at the service of the Repression Great Inner of the capitalist unconscious as a whole.

Exhibition 'Art History Museum', Darwin Museum, 2021

And, nevertheless, disclosure of the hidden (or Truth, which may be equated to profit here and now in the capitalistic society, let us compare with following: 'it is true — because it wins and it wins, because it is true') in swamps as in oil is made technological. Peat, formed in conditions in the conditions of northern swamps, can be used as as an effective sorbent for oil production, and peat is formed precisely on the basis of moss’s the decomposition in the marshland.
Oil production by repression of swamps is 'production-supplying method [disclosure of the hidden], that is, 'Ge-stell' [2]. Heidegger, whose term is used by me, analysed the word 'technology', paying attention to the origin of it — greek word τέχνη — which means both: art and craft [3]. Two ways of disclosure of hidden come from one word — the technological in the sense of 'Ge-stell' and poetical.
As mentioned earlier, the fate of swamps in public discourse is a metaphor, which clearly suggests the existence of a different way of revealing the hidden, rather than technical (Ge-stell). There is the way and it found its expression in a work of artist Dunya Frankstein 'The Blossoming Moss'. The title 'blossoming moss' itself is speculative — moss cannot blossom, it even has not got roots. Contrary to the work of Frankstein, roots of which go to the mythopoeia of Moscow Romantic Conceptualism.

Exhibition 'Art History Museum', Darwin Museum, 2021

And more likely to the younger generation of it, because, in my opinion, the fundamental difference between conceptualist generations lies in the relation to emptiness. The elder generation differs in an intention to fill the Void, whether it is the replenishment of the absent by prescribing his (viewer) comments [4], ironic patches to the broken ideology, the premise 'white = empty' [5], empty as a reflection of the transcendent [6]. Younger generation of conceptualists (worked in 1990’s) is famous for theirs 'kolobkovost', slipping-away (from any precise interpretation), so that slipping-away excludes the possibility of filling in. They felt the emptiness in the absence of ideology even more clearly, but the desire to fill it in or replace it with something more hopeful is no longer read by the viewer or reader. The desire is gone, because impetuous and chaotic filling / displacement of the void leads to its rooting. Emptiness is not always an absence, it can be understood as an 'empty sign', as the overflow of concentrated absence from area to another, as objects placed randomly and out of place. Emptiness is more total than man, more total than art, it is also the last refuge of history. But you can work with emptiness.

Firstly, 'The Blossoming Moss' is a story of a mythological scientific discovery. According to D. Frankstein, czechoslovak scientist Helmut Luchinsky discovered an amazing quality of moss —blossoming. Yes, delicate flowers sprout through the unsightly swampy surface. It took a whole his life to come this discovery, however, he died in obscurity (which again sends the viewer to the displacement of swamps from discourse), his archives were accidentally found by the artist. Since then, she has been integrating blossoming moss in the urban area by drawing on the walls of houses with graffiti depicting these same flowers. This act is both a therapy that acts as an alternative to the more and more impulsive displacement of moss / abandonment, leading to its inevitable rooting, and rehabilitation of the swamps, rethinking and re-discovery of them.

Let us compare: repressed and silent oil, which can rise up as restless ancestors [6], and swamp moss has not got a rhizome, butblossoms with a flower, has found rhizome and post factum has given it tothe moss. Image of substance from restless ancestors is a part of postmodern tradition with its quotation, cultural layers, borrowing and exploitation of the same images, while the flower is inherently hieroglyphic. It is a general concept, capable of accommodating in its beautiful simplicity opposite meanings [7], the flower, like Friendship (without quotation marks), and Love, and poster slogans (NB. the blossoming moss itself, drawn by Frankstein, resembles several carnations, thanks theyare not red) is rehabilitated by modernity with its postirony and new sincerity. To claim «moss blossoms» is a bold and unambiguous statement, despite the fact that the artist does not hide the mythological side of the work ('The Blossoming Moss' was exhibited for the first time in Museum of Artificial History in Moscow Darwin Museum outside of social media and urban area, where one of the explications clearly spoke of the myth of Luchinsky [8]). The flower blooms, unfolds under the sunlight — this is also a kind of disclosure of the hidden (hidden in swampy soil), but not forced disclosure, not even the disclosure from the outside. The Hidden, which has become True in the hieroglyphic sense, reveals itself.

Posthumanism, which has dominated the discourse of the Russian art scene for the past few years, has been seen as a symptom of great disillusionment with a person as a subject, an attempt to discredit him to the end, often unsuccessful attempts for any actor to climb to claim the number one throne, to split his artistic and human Ego, unable to bear responsibility and the pressure of emptiness. It is fascinating, that the rare example of the transmission of discourse to a fictitious human character is precisely 'The Blossoming Moss'. Frankstein's prediction is optimistic — flowers sprout from the moss, which were previously studied by a forgotten scientist. The artist takes the side of moss and flowering with ease, cause of hertirednessto worry. This, combined with the scientist-pioneer returned from oblivion, gives a strange effect: the recognition of emptiness and the departure of a small person not as a compromise of mutation into a cyborg, neural network and other forms of escapism, but as a natural order of things — departure, death. But this death, in turn, is not the end, but only the beginning, because, contrary to the common sense of science, the special moss of Dunya Frankstein blooms.

From personal archives

Redistributing of the matter. Matter is matter. After the final abandonment a real miracle takes place: world is soothed and softened by a green veil, find the answer to the question: 'What am I?' — void and fulness, life and death, 'little man' and demiurge, start and finish, science and magic, absolute homogeneity of opposites. And where and when is that possible, if not now in Russia?
This may sound naive due to the fact that the exploitation of oil absorbs all the problems of the capitalist present, while being the largest layer of the pyramid of exploitation. The black void of oil may absorb us, being embodied in this very 'restless ancestor', but admiring the blossoming moss can be an alternative to total fear and expectation of payback. Our world is too exhausted to fear. Artistic thrill is giving way to art therapy, and city walks are still good for your health. With acts of 'vandalism', tagging 'blossoming moss' all over the city, Frankstein takes the side of the moss, infects the city with emptying in an act of a kind accelerationism, does not run away from it, inevitably bringing it closer, but finds refuge and beauty in it, bringing it closer. Love for blossoming moss can be called a manifestation of the 'Russian emptiness', the return of the repressed, but not in the form of the terrifying, but in the form of the beautiful, the miraculous.

Andy Warhol often said, 'This is a wonderful world, isn’t it?' V. Martynov put this phrase in the title of his book 'Letters from Petrakovo', in which he postulates that history reveals itself today only in its disappearance [9]. This is a tribute to overgrowing with moss, abandonment, in which a person contemplating and homo errans can exist. Yes, a person wandering, wandering around the city and noticing the 'The Blossoming Moss' graffiti.
This is a wonderful Planet, isn’t it?

  1. Timofeeva O. Black Matter / 'Experiences of non-human hospitality'. V-A-C, MMOMA, 2017 (in Russian).
  2. Heidegger M. Issue of technology/ cited Bibihin V. 'Time and Being' М.: Respublica, 1993 (in Russian).
  3. Ibid., p. 162.
  4. KabakovI. Groys B. Dialogs, Vologda: BMK Germana Titova, 2010, p. 140 (in Russian).
  5. Ibid., 66.
  6. Ibid., 68.
  7. Khruscheva N. Metamodernism music and around it, М.: Gruppa Kompanii 'RIPOL classic', 2020, p. 63-66 (in Russian).
  8. Martynov V. This is a wonderful world, isn’t it? Letters from Petrakovo, М.: Classica-XXI, 2019, p. 121 (in Russian).