[spectre] Genossin Sonne (Comrade Sun) opens at Kunsthalle Vienna on 16 May

Inke Arns inke.arns at snafu.de
Mon May 6 18:20:49 CEST 2024

Dear all,

I’ve been absent from this list for quite a while now and left all the admin work to Andreas. Sorry for this, I promise to be more present again from now on ;-)

I really hope to see some of you in Vienna, for the opening of the exhibition COMRADE SUN that looks at the relationship between revolution and the sun.

The opening will take place at Kunsthalle Vienna on Thu, May 16th, at 19:00.

Looking forward to see some of you,

all the best,

PS: An article that will be reprinted in the book published on the occasion of the exhibition is this one (check out the diagrams!): https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351700433_Shifting_Pattern_of_Extraordinary_Economic_and_Social_Events_in_Relation_to_the_Solar_Cycle 

PPS: Yes, I am still running www.hmkv.de ;-)


16/5 – 1/9 2024

kunsthalle wien / Museumsquartier

A joint exhibition of kunsthalle wien and Wiener Festwochen | Freie Republik Wien In collaboration with Klima Biennale Wien

Press conference: Thu 16/5 2024 • 10 am

Opening: Thu 16/5 2024 • 7 pm

Kobby Adi • Kerstin Brätsch • Colectivo Los Ingrávidos • Nicholas Grafia & Mikołaj Sobczak • Sonia Leimer • Maha Maamoun • Wolfgang Mattheuer • Marina Pinsky • Katharina Sieverding • The Atlas Group • The Otolith Group • Huda Takriti • Suzanne Treister • Anton Vidokle • Gwenola Wagon • Hajra Waheed

Curators: Dr. Inke Arns (Director of HMKV Hartware MedienKunstVerein) and Andrea Popelka (Kunsthalle Wien)

Assistant Curator: Hannah Marynissen

Exhibition design: Marlene Oeken & Martha Schwindling


The essayistic group exhibition Genossin Sonne [Comrade Sun] brings together artistic and theoretical work in which cosmic connections and reconstructions of cosmology are imagined as an element of political struggle, drawing on sources from fiction, theory, poetics, and other writing. Is intensified solar activity (incidence of sunspots and solar winds) related to terrestrial revolution, as the Soviet cosmists claimed? What exciting speculative reflections on this matter might be found in contemporary art and poetry?

The moving image—film and video as media of light—is a particular focus in this exhibition, but hypnotic, febrile, fiery, and menacing affects also emanate from works in other media. The sun acts both as source of life and energy for political struggle and as admonishing figure whose sheer mass and duration lay bare the brevity of human life on planet Earth.


The exhibition title Genossin Sonne is perplexing. How can the sun, the star at the center of our solar system, be a comrade? In what struggle, in what revolutionary upheaval? Can the sun be a revolutionary subject? And what does revolution have to do with the cosmos?

The word “revolution” came to mean “violent overthrow of an existing social-political order” following the Haitian/Caribbean, French and North American revolutions of the late 18th century. Before that time, however, it was used in astronomy with reference to the rotation of celestial bodies. The connotation of social and political actions came later.

Capitalism and industrialization soon took charge of humans’ radical “emancipation” from their environment, replacing a relationship of mutual co-operation with one of extraction. Nature now became an adversary, an other to be exploited for raw materials. Yet in the context of the present climate catastrophe, humanity is beginning to remember that it is a part of its environment. The exhibition Genossin Sonne goes a step further, playfully speculating that the sun itself may be our comrade, our ally.

The Soviet researcher Alexander L. Chizhevsky (U.S.S.R., 1897–1964) had long since seen it this way. Chizhevsky was an interdisciplinary scientist, Cosmist and biophysicist. He was among the founders of heliobiology as a research discipline, and also studied the effects of air ionization. The first refers to influence of the sun on the biosphere; the second to the effect of air ionization on biological entities. He discovered, for example, that geomagnetic storms caused by solar activity can affect the function of electrical systems, potentially causing airplane crashes or locust plagues. He also believed that increasing negative ionization of the Earth‘s atmosphere would stimulate “mass excitability”. According to Chizhevsky, human history is heavily influenced by 11-year cycles of sunspot activity, bringing about rebellion in the forms of revolt, revolution, and civil war.

Chizhevsky built a stellar scientific career in the U.S.S.R. of the 1920s and 1930s. But in 1942 Josef Stalin discovered his research, including a seminal work of 1924 on “physical factors of the historical process”. Chizhevsky was asked to repudiate his work on solar cycles, which contradicted official historical theories of the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. He refused, was arrested, and spent eight years in a Gulag (labor camp) in the Urals. On his release in 1950 he settled in Karaganda (now Kazakhstan), where he was made to undergo a further eight years of state-mandated “rehabilitation”.


Some works in the show induce a hypnotic or trance-like state. Among these are the colorful video pieces (including The Sun Quartet) by Mexico’s Colectivo Los Ingrávidos, which are distributed throughout the exhibition space; also the all-black and white science fiction video 2026 by Egyptian artist Maha Maamoun, and the video work The Communist Revolution was Caused by the Sun by Russian artist Anton Vidokle.

The video essay In the Year of the Quiet Sun by The Otolith Group returns us to November 1964—November 1965, when many countries issued stamps commemorating the first scientific mission to the sun. That glimpse of the heavens both coincided with and concealed from view the contemporaneous African independence movements.

Wolfgang Mattheuer’s borderline surreal paintings Der Nachbar, der will fliegen and Die Sonnenstraße (respectively, The neighbor who wants to fly; Sun Street) bear witness to the power exerted by the sun on humans. That it is specifically the neighbor who rebels, growing something resembling wings, indicates that revolution is never made alone, but always collectively. The speculative poetic video piece I only wish that I could weep by The Atlas Group documents a singular event said to have happened in Beirut, in which an agent assigned to observe passers-by on the Corniche repeatedly drifts away with his VHS camera towards the spectacular sunset over the sea.

At three points in the show, the sun itself might be said to be painting. In Hajra Waheed’s work on paper How long does it take moonlight to reach us? Just over one second. And sunlight? Eight minutes., papers darkened to varying degrees by sunlight show highly abstracted images of the sun. In translucent glass works and other objects and in her PARA PSYCHIC series of drawings, Kerstin Brätsch makes use of traditional and sometimes forgotten artisanal methods to draw out metaphysical and animistic attributes of painting in a comical way. Kobby Adi’s witnesses, meanwhile, store sunlight and re-emit it in darkness. And the emerging Vienna Light Study monitors light quality in the city day by day through the exhibition’s running period.

Gwenola Wagon and Suzanne Treister tell fantastic stories. In Wagon’s video Chroniques du Soleil Noir [Chronicles of the Dark Sun], the Earth is so overheated at some time in the future that humans must completely block out the sun to survive. With the help of AI, they try to recall images of the sun. In the speculative sequence The Escapist BHST (Black Hole Spacetime), Treister contemplates imaginary scenarios of techno-human evolution across huge cosmological time-spans. And once again not without irony, in ALCHEMY/The Sun she discovers the revolutionary power of the sun in front pages from the British tabloid newspaper The Sun.

Then in Sonia Leimer’s Space Junk, a wide trail of the eponymous material is strewn throughout the exhibition space. The sculpture July 15th, 2015 by Marina Pinsky recalls that revolutions habitually establish new time measures and calendars (as in the title, one day after the French revolution of July 14). Katharina Sieverding’s large-format video DIE SONNE UM MITTERNACHT SCHAUEN (RED), SDO/NASA [WATCHING THE SUN AT MIDNIGHT (RED), SDO/NASA] is the sole work in the show to be projected onto the outer wall of the exhibition space, ripping a hole into the walk-in sci-fi diorama implied by the exhibition architecture. The block-based aesthetic, reminiscent of the computer game Minecraft, insists that revolution is an open and collective process, constantly under construction. Genossin Sonne also extends into outdoor space beyond the kunsthalle wien itself: Huda Takriti presents a work at Brunnenpassage; Nicholas Grafia & Mikolaj Sobczak perform in public space.

Genossin Sonne is an exhibition that unites the political with the poetic to evoke pleasurable, speculative associations between the revolutionary, the celestial, contemporary art, and their effects on our daily lives. An immersive installation whose temporality unfolds in allowing for moments of rest and reflection, manifested as both critique but also optimism, joy and hope for the future.

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