Andrei Monastyrsky, Darkness, 2007.
photo : Andrei Monastyrsky, permission | courtesy Charim Galerie, Vienna
In the West, the Russian brand of utopian thinking is generally dubbed as apocalyptic and/or eschatological. Right or wrong, I will adopt this cliché (and highlight its shortcomings), while bearing in mind that the texts authored by a number of influential Western thinkers, from Nietzsche and Benjamin, to Levinas and Baudrillard, were messianic and, thus, eschatological. Playing Cassandra is ostensibly fashionable and still in demand in today’s Society of the Spectacle, even if it aims at an ironic re-evaluation of our stale views and criteria. Evidently, Sisyphus has finally learned how to enjoy defeat and celebrate it as victory. 

When viewing the paintings of Renaissance artists in the Uffizzi Gallery, one should note that these masterpieces were created in an era of fierce struggle between ideologies in art. The Renaissance was an arena of hostility, not only between artists, but between their patrons — the Medicis, the Borgias, the d’Estes, and the Vatican. Thus, the paintings hanging on museum walls are mimetic residues of these conflicts and projections of warring ideologies. Yet, when placed together, they amazingly reconcile, “forgetting” all about past wars and about the ideologies that generated them. The museum is thus a model of “paradise,” in which each object is at peace with other objects, eternalized through a series of curatorial rituals, and therefore consigned to oblivion, or to recontextualization, which essentially amounts to the same thing. The paradox, however, is that in such a “paradise,” sedimental ideologies are reactivated by the throngs of visitors from all over the world, and this motley audience is an embodiment of ideological variety. Today, warring ideologies no longer meet on a museum wall, but in front of it. Hence, the “visitors in paradise” re-ideologize that which was resting in the arms of a museological Morpheus. Like any paradise, the museum space is whole and indivisible, but the viewer who invades it ushers in the virus of difference. That is why in the “ideal” museum the only image to be shared with the public should be the sign “No admission.” 

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This article also appears in the issue 72 - Curators

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