Arseny Zhilyaev

Arseny Zhilyaev / b. 1984, Russia / lives and works in Moscow and Venice


The 5th Ural Biennial Main Project features the work:
«Laborer of the Sun» (Installation, 2018–2019)
Courtesy of the artist

Zhilyaev’s Laborer of the Sun plays with the contemporary longing for new faith and new hope. Imagining humanity’s distant future, the artist iconizes solar panels as an expression of the Great Energy. The temporal discrepancy and the bold statement of the installation bewilders us: as the viewer wanders within the timeless cult of the sun, it is unclear when the present ends and the future begins. Referencing the tradition of sublime, the icons of the Laborer of the Sun elevate themselves, ironically, to a true sublime of meaninglessness and hollowness, instead of holiness and significance.

Fragment from original accompanying text:
A series of icons on crystal foundation from one of the Earth temples of the Laborer of the Sun denomination is presented publicly for the first time. According to the character of radio waves preserved in the distant outer space reflecting their liturgies (one of the liturgies’ fragment is reconstructed and presented at the exhibition), we are dealing with a temple devoted to a plant producing hi-tech optical equipment. These icons seem to belong to the era of disguised worship with its characteristic fears and visual simplicity. As in most cases, the main protagonist of the altar narrative is labor. However, this is unqualified labor, not bringing joy and doomed to eternal absorption of the darkly visible in anticipation of the new Star. It is commonly believed that the austere images of the Laborer of the Sun express the universal yearning for the Great Energy, which had been nurturing the artists’ faith for many centuries. The artists of the Laborer of the Sun employ iconography of early modernist painting dated 47th century before rtlk-1 and push its radically constructivist tendency to the limits acceptable in visual art. This is undoubtedly characteristic of the decline era, which makes the icons of the Laborer of the Sun a perfect reflection of those dark times.

Also presented work:
«Anton Vidokle De Cosmos Recreation Center» (Installation, 2016–2019)
Courtesy of the artist


In his artistic practice and theoretical work, Arseny Zhilyaev explores the limits of both fictional and real spaces. His most recent research focuses on the museum as a medium, space, and practice. He examines the legacy of Soviet museology from the point of view of philosophical cosmism: the exhibition is a cosmos existing within its own temporal and spatial dimensions. Employing popular strategies of contemporary art practice, such as self-irony, re-appropriation of modernism, immersion, and playful futurism, Anton Vidokle De Cosmos Recreation Center is an interactive installation that features a “museum spa.” The artist draws a parallel between the relationships of the spectator and the museum and the one of the customer and the service provider. By offering quasi-therapy treatments, the spa promotes self-improvement—as seen by the wellness industry—through the cosmos of the exhibition. Revealing its simultaneously seductive and alienating, sincere and artificial features, this installation mirrors a utopian impulse of Russian cosmism with its urge to achieve immortality, and is a critique of contemporary art institutions’ incompetency in resolving social and political problems.

Text in the artwork:

Dear Visitor to Planet Earth,

We are pleased to welcome you to the Anton Vidokle De Cosmos Recreation Centre.
Here you can enjoy the best concentrated color-wave baths in our rejuvenation sector. A collective of the first generation, resurrected Malevich clones developed their frequencies. Excellence of our art is reflected in the eternal and divine love of our clients: a love that originates in a remote past—early 21st century—when Anton Vidokle first presented his therapeutic Red Light exhibition, aboard a NASA intergalactic station.
Recommended duration of the first session is 12 minutes 53 seconds, ET (Earth Time). To achieve maximum effect, please settle comfortably in a cheiz lounge, close your eyes and concentrate on the Deafening Emptiness No47, and relate to the upward pressure on our ancestors’ laws of nature. After the Deafening Emptiness No47 penetrates your tissue, we advise you to open your eyes and spend the rest of your session contemplating the movement of the light of Sun-EH3.
The time interval between sessions must not exceed 43 hours 56 minutes 13 seconds, ET (Earth Time). The duration spent in the concentrated wave baths may be increased in geometric progression, starting with your second visit.

We wish you a pleasant immersion!
Anton Vidokle De Cosmos Recreation Centre Staff