Museum of Mars Colonization
Archive of Correspondence
Armstrong Street 999
SI23100 Global Union
Registration number: 2299
Object name: DNA-pendrive
Dimensions: 2 x 2 x 1 cm
Description: The DNA-pendrive contains seven encrypted letters from a woman living on Mars (V.) to a man living on Earth (J.), members of the GI movement. The letters have been sent between 10th October 2214 and 6th January 2215
History: Found in the waste dump in the northern part of the Global Union on the 19th of March 2223
Exhibitions in which the object was shown: “Mars Now” (2225), “Letters from Mars. The Untold Story of Mars Colonization” (2240), “The Archives of the Gonzo International” (2242), “The History of the Avant-garde on Mars” (2242), “The Return of the Gonzo International” (2260), “Mars and Abstract Art” (2261), “Magiciens de Mars” (2273), “Re-avant-garde and its Discontents” (2273), “Avant-garde in the Shadow of Mars” (2274), “When Attitudes Land on Mars” (2280), “DO IT on Mars” (2285), “All Kisses are Metaphors. Love Letters between Mars and Earth” (2285), 5th GU Quinquennale (2290).
Conservator responsible & author of the explanatory notes: Aneta Rostkowska
Malevich Colony/Mars, 10.10.2214
I have almost recovered from nine months of traveling here with twenty other curators, artists and art critics. It was hard but we managed to survive without serious conflicts. I have never read so many books and watched so many movies than on this weird trip from Earth to Mars on “El Lissitzky” space ship. There was a well-equipped library, a comfortable cinema, a gym and even an art space where I curated a small exhibition of artworks taken by the passengers (the title of the show was of course “Space Trucking”[i]). Because of the untypical setting I had to invent a whole new exhibition design combining plastic vitrines and belts. It was so weird to see all the artworks occasionally floating in the air! It looked as if they were trying to free themselves from the walls of the white cube and escape somewhere into the infinite cosmos. I tried to imagine how it would be to join them.
Now me and all the new people try to stick together here hoping that this will help us in adapting to entirely new living conditions. Everything is so different here, so new, I don’t even know how to start explaining things to you. The architectural concept of our settlement was inspired by one of Malevich’s paintings so the units have different shapes and intersect with one another to create a kind of suprematist composition. Each of us lives in a separate unit, and they are all connected. Mine is situated along the Beuys Avenue in the southern part of the colony.
My job is to care for the hydroponic garden. Every day I refill the liquid soaking the roots of the plants, then I collect the crops and bring them to one of the kitchens. It took me some time to get accustomed to the different colour of the leaves here – they are grey because the light differs from Earth. Luckily the taste of the vegetables is very similar to what I’m used to. At least that gives me some sense of continuity.
PS1 I forgot to mention that we have a Retromarxist reading group here where we can discuss the possibility of expanding the revolution to other planets (will aliens be the new proletariat?!). PS2 Here is an aerial sketch of the compound we stay in:
Malevich Colony/Mars, 15.10.2214
I had to share this with you instantly: some photos from a local magazine – “Phobos[ii]” – that show my unit exercising and playing games. Aren’t we amazing? 🙂 The photographs were taken on the roof of a big compound with a fake beach. Physical exercise plays a big role on Mars. The atmospheric conditions are quite harsh so we have to stay fit in order to survive. As you see on the photographs the general mood is quite good (though many of the inhabitants didn’t come here voluntarily). There is some kind of a fascination with the planet and an urge to invade it with art, even if the only audience of these activities is the Martian artworld itself.
Malevich Colony/Mars, 23.10. 2214
It’s funny how I’m intuitively turning on Skype to try and reach you. As you know Skyping between Mars and Earth is impossible. The communication signal has to travel a great distance, and it would take around 20 minutes to get a reply. There is even a new form of poetry on Mars related to that – so called “monodialogues”. A monodialogue consists of convoluted fragments of texts simulating trials to have phone conversations between Earth and Mars. Basically it looks like two juxtaposed monologues occasionally ‘meeting’ and turning into dialogues.
This actually makes me sentimental. My thoughts go back to our first meeting. A seemingly unimportant decision to volunteer in a reenactment of Duchamp’s famous chess match with Eve Babitz turned our life upside down 😉 I like to look at the photo of us pretending to play chess but actually thinking about something completely different, neither a dialogue nor a monodialogue…
And this makes me unbelievably sad.
Malevich Colony/Mars, 03.11.2214
I’m not surprised by your observation that the production of art on Earth (after relocating so many artists here), became much more monotonous. After all, the so called ‘dark matter of art’, the ‘invisible’ part of the art world (that actually formed 95% of it) contributed a lot to the creative process of the artists that functioned as stars. If the ‘dark matter’ of the art world has been reduced and the freedom of art production restricted, it is natural that the global environment would become less creative and inspiring. The process of creation is more a collective one, not an individual. I wish we had recognized that earlier!
I must tell you that I’m still trying to understand what actually happened on Earth. I would have never predicted that one day extra-institutional art would be annihilated, smashed out of the surface of Earth. That it would be made a thing of the past, not in the metaphorical sense as Hegel stated but literally, as an activity both banned and considered unnecessary. And that this would not be a result of our own artistic strategies (as you know artists have wanted to destroy art for quite some time) but by an external force – the GU – that one day just decided to turn our manifestos against us.
It all started very innocently, who would predict that the rise of artistic activism was dangerous in that respect? The idea of obligatory “artist” positions in big corporations, parliaments, schools and universities sounded plausible, a valid continuation of Artists Placement Group tradition from the 70s. When Tate Unilever decide to employ the first group of artists I was more skeptical.
I was not surprised however that so many artists accepted positions at both institutions and corporations. After all they had a right to demand a decent life after years of struggling. But I will never understand why instead of questioning the mechanisms of these places they turned into officers of state or corporate workers. Was it because of some kind of a general lack of political consciousness and engagement among the art world people? Or maybe they had the necessary consciousness, but the institutions themselves became too powerful to transform or subvert?
The emerging movement of the Re-avant-garde and general conservative turn only reinforced what has already been in play for a long time. And so we gradually returned to the times before the actual avant-garde… Autonomous art ceased to exist in favour of institutionalized forms of corporate marketing and social services. In all our naivety we didn’t expect that with our double negation (negating the avant-gardist negation of traditional art) we would come back to a state of affairs that existed before that negation was even executed.
[Curator’s notes: Total GI- Art Match-Box (an altered readymade, 3 x 4 cm) – created by the GI (The Gonzo International) in 2210 after Ben Vautier’s Total Art Match-Box (1965). In contrast to Vautier’s box GI’s box is impossible to burn. Shown together with the letters in “The Archives of the Gonzo International” (2242)
Kobro Settlement/Mars, 15.11.2214
J., my dear,
I’m writing this letter from a new settlement where the central compound was inspired by Katarzyna Kobro’s sculptures and her concept of infinite space. It’s so amazing! We were strolling around the building for hours admiring the architecture. In our space suits we looked like small sculptures that managed to detach from a gigantic ‘mother’ and were now having a life of their own.
The Kobro Settlement is a special place designed for performing arts. It was here that I saw the space ballet for the first time. As you know the gravity on Mars is 38 % of Earth’s so every movement takes a bit longer than on Earth. It was fascinating to observe how the dancers used these differences between. They were dressed in specially designed space costumes whose forms reminded me of Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadisches Ballet. Their moves were smooth and steady as they floated, rolled and jumped. I had an impression that they wanted to trick the force of gravitation, simultaneously subduing themselves to it and yet trying to question it. It was a hypnotizing experience.
There was also an evening of monodialogues (the actors were reciting different examples of this type of poetry, very dramatic) and a sophisticated lecture on terrart. Terrart is environmental art combined with terraforming, one of the most ambitious and demanding art breeds here as it consists in creating entirely new landscapes and atmospheric conditions in large parts of Mars. Sometimes even a whole nearby planet or satellite is involved becoming a gigantic artwork in itself. One of terrart’s many variants is DG – dunes graffiti, when artists create dunes in fantastic shapes. The dunes are later photographed from satellites moving around Mars with the photos then projected on big screens during special events.
Everything is so beautiful and so well planned here. Even the graffiti art (it seems that it couldn’t escape the same fate as on Earth – depoliticization etc). I must tell you however that in this artificial environment I feel as if I was playing a computer game – the more perfectly the game is designed, the more unreal it seems.
Missing your imperfections,
An architectonic model of the Kobro Settlement.
(…) Find your mantra and awaken your subconscious
Curve your circles counterclockwise, use your cipher to decipher
Coded Language, man made laws, climb waterfalls and trees
Commune with nature, snakes and bees let your children
Name themselves and claim themselves as the new day, for today
We are determined to be the channelers of these changing
Frequencies into songs, paintings, writings, dance, drama
Photography, carpentry, crafts, love and love, we enlist every instrument
Acoustic, electronic every so called race, gender and sexual preference
Every person as beings of sound to acknowledge their responsibility
To uplift the consciousness of the entire fucking world (…)
Malevich Colony/Mars, 24.12.2214
My dear J.,
I begin this letter with the anthem of the GI[iii]. What a glorious mood in these words! I’m still smiling while remembering our sect! It worked so well! Curating all these exhibitions that successfully pumped up the hype around our fictive artist’s work. Of course this wouldn’t be possible without Jane writing about his art in such an enthusiastic way and you recommending the works to many prestigious museums. Five years of a conspiracy, so much money. The Gonzo International was so proud of us!
Also the imaginary exhibitions were quite a good concept. I will never forget the astonishment expressed by the Nike Guggenheim’s director after she realized that a large group of the opening’s guests were not there to admire the show she curated (quite an average one) but a parasited version created by a GI curator and transmitted via MP3000 players right into the brains of visitors. Standing there and seeing all these people, some of them happily staring into empty walls, I finally understood that in the time where everything should be transparent, plain, visible and accessible, we struggle for mystery. We want to imagine freely, instead of having sensations instantaneously delivered.
The time of spectacular exhibitions at the Guggenheim, where visitors were encouraged to immerse themselves in an environment that appealed to all senses by means of a special stimulus strengthening equipment attached to your spinal cord is definitely over.
But, then more pessimistic thoughts appear. What did we actually achieve? Huge media attention, an atmosphere of scandal, exposition of the mechanisms of the system – yes, definitely. We didn’t however manage to change the current state of affairs. We were just a small, scattered group.
[Curator’s notes: Ceiling of a radio station in Kraków – place of GI’s action “U Can’t Touch This”. Fictive exhibition – postminimalist abstract sculptures, in fact soft objects used to sound-proof the studio. Presented only in an aural way (in a radio show). Mix of soph. interpr. referring to art history and philosophy with ‘relevant’ popular music from 80s and 90s (ex. MC Hammer, Ace of Base, Michael Jackson, Army of Lovers).]
Malevich Colony/Mars, 6.01.2215
Today we were informed that the Kobro Settlement would be closed because of some problems with the air circulation system. I’m more and more worried about the future of the colony. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were plans to gradually transform it into something ‘normal’ and non-artistic. After all, it must be extremely expensive to sustain this ‘constructivist dream’… I could easily imagine destroying the artistic character of the colony while keeping Earth’s image of it untouched. No way someone could come here and check if that image were true or not…
Or maybe the artists will be relocated to another planet so that the whole process could be repeated – the initial enthusiasm about moving to a new place, the hard work of establishing the settlement, brave artistic exploration of the cosmic surroundings etc.? Artistic avant-garde as a way of conquering the universe? Why not actually?
But will it be clear for everyone how it all started? Do you know this story about a museum where the staff was secretly ironing the suprematist paintings of Malevich? Apparently they were painted in a very expressive way, with large blocks of paint. This didn’t fit into the way modernism was interpreted as Malevich’s works were supposed to be flat. I wonder what will become of the story of the colonization of Mars. Will the beginnings of the colony that we are now experiencing be perfectly ‘ironed’? Will anyone know about works that artists in the colony created on Earth, works that forced their relocation here? Will the GI survive on Earth in spite of the repressions? I have no idea. I hope you do.
Having seen what I saw here I only know that it is impossible to stop making art. We will continue no matter where and no matter how. In this universe or another. Hopefully in one of them I will meet you again.
“Why not just turn around
Lessen the intensity of your western glare and face the rising sun
Note the energy swirling from its center
How it illumines us all
and only the birds fly first class…
There is your inheritance!
The warmth of a kiss
Invest your tongue into the mouth of mystery
Allow her breath to seep into your lungs and surrender to her touch and guidance
There’s no other way (…)” [iv]
List of illustrations:
The story is an homage to Jan G. Lee, the most talented environmental artist I have ever known. The cases of gonzo curating come from the blog http://www.gonzocurating.blogspot.com/, created by Aneta Rostkowska and Kuba Woynarowski.