Stars are another matter entirely. Stars have always been a part of the romantic tradition, a metaphor, and a symbol system. In the past, people used them to tell time or navigate. The way we look at stars determines the milestones of cultural, scientific, and technological progress, becomes a measure of civilisation development, a platform for utopias, and a linear progress chart. At the same time, outer space remains an uncharted, untamed and perilous territory that humankind cannot yet harness. Being constantly drawn to this border with reality, earthlings bump into it, and sometimes such stories turn out to be truly terrifying.
In 1967, in the run-up to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, the Communist Party launched a hurriedly prepared Soyuz 1 space mission piloted by cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. Sadly, despite being fully aware of the spacecraft’s technical issues, he could not deny the mission and requested to be buried in an open coffin in case of death. He died. The official image pictures his fellow cosmonauts standing over a decorated coffin containing his charred remains (Komarov was cremated and his ashes were interred in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis). It feels like by expressing his last will, as if in a grave and quiet protest, Komarov wished to inform us about the mission’s impending failure. He silently disagreed with the ineffective system that prioritised politically important dates and the space race over people’s lives. This horrible story, which had been classified for a long time, signifies the dangers and limits of exploiting 'the cosmic', and the border that one might be smashed against.
Art is different. It seems to have no boundaries for the work of the mind and imagination, for hopes and travels through time and space. Misha Gudwin’s installation represents a cosmogram with the 'ruins' of an ancient cult scattered across it. Slightly reminiscent of Stonehenge, they look quite genuine but demonstrate not a pagan or an astronomical cult but a communist one. Misha Gudwin’s method is based on the 'welcoming of ideas', a possibility to collate and imitate various artistic techniques, pop culture symbols, archaeological discoveries, and other elements from any discipline, style, and period. Gudwin possesses a unique ability to grasp, mix, process, and rewire all things similar and different, and rearrange elements into a new reality. The Night of Capricorn audaciously brings together what could not have been brought together before — the starry Capricorn with the unicorn from the Vyksa’s coat of arms, Soviet Empire style’s wavy ornaments with megalithic shrines, the historical Vyksa with the metaphysical Vyksa, and the cosmic narrative with the esoteric one.
On the one hand, Gudwin’s project seems to be a well-designed visual composition, based on the contrasts of textures and aesthetics, well-chosen quotations and romanticised clichés. But on the other hand, his installation can be viewed as a complex system with its elements conflicting and resonating with each other while remaining strained and balanced by the artist’s will. That said, Gudwin’s chaos appears to be his cosmos, and encompassing the unencompassable — the integrity principle of his aesthetics.
Now, let us imagine that we are looking at Misha’s installation from space, that we can see the whole world and Vyksa with inhuman eyes — from above. Being observed from that perspective, anyone might feel very small, related to their surroundings, while Gudwin’s system of incongruent parts, ideas, and objects transforms into a monolithic artefact of modern human culture.