The 19th Century. Take Two

Sergey Guskov: Is it possible to return to another view on history and reality in general, so that it consists of more analysis and critical approach?

Stanislav Shuripa: That’s the point. The more data and analysis you have, the lesser confidence in the future you will get. But if our very contemporaneity is a collage, then how can our picture of the past be not collage-like? Perhaps, crosscutting history rules are the signs of a conveyer epoch, product of heavy industry. They were popular beliefs right during the period of the World Wars. Nowadays, we trust more commonplaces and algorithms.

Guskov: Then it was a dramatic destruction of the old world. Now we also have a global fallout—pandemic which has influenced all fields of human activity. But it seems that it didn’t hit us enough, did it?

Shuripa: The pandemic as Laplace’s demon improved machines of knowledge, mixed private and public spheres into a common “flat ontology”. It intensifies incorporation of human bodies into the networks of communications and control. Humans as a life form transforms. Consciousness is not inside the body anymore but vice versa. Our bodies are the real treasure so we keep them safe at home while consciousness is curling as a cloud in the web.

Guskov: What’s happening with art in this context?

Shuripa: Awakening of identities which strongly determines today’s art process. On the one hand, it’s a continuing of the emancipation initialized by the Enlightenment when the main idea of the Modern was born: any identity, no matter how bizarre it is, has a right for recognition. To be yourself, to be the other, to be together with others— identity politics targets lots of subjects interesting for every artist. This indicates awakening of art and search for new opportunities of a critical redefinition of reality from unusual points of view. It’s a phase of the constructing process of a more sophisticated and dynamic world. If during the 2000s and 2010s we experienced re-invention of identities of objects and materials, now this is about more complex assemblages including not only found images and objects but also ways of existence, bodies, communities. In terms of general culture, it’s preparation for entering tomorrow’s world. Smart things, thinking machines, nonhuman agents, autopoietic systems, and hyperobjects form the environment where the bodies and brains will live using new levels of freedom (as well as control), where they mix till the indistinguishability not only private and public, inner and outer but also corporal and spiritual, knowledge and emotions, human and nonhuman. A new form of the human that inhabits the realm of artificial intelligence arises today almost the same way the mechanized and paranoiac human was born in the beginning of the last century or the disciplinary person of the coal-fired and steam era appeared two hundred years ago. For the thinking machines of the future, it’s important to monitor and recognize all kinds of identities to open as wider access to information and technologies as possible.   

Guskov: Maybe here’s the deal. Social dynamism is increasing again now. All things are confused, all people become precarious. Moreover, we’ve been promised mass unemployment due to robotization and development of artificial intelligence. Frightened people expect that somebody explains what to do. This sort of a new education must be simple. That’s why blogging, influencing and other forms of modern “elimination of illiteracy” are so extremely popular. And apparently resurgence of populism in politics originated from the same sources.

Shuripa: Probably it did. Today masses are even more lost than in the 19th century because now we moved away from the Middle Ages further than two hundred years ago. Modern day populisms blossom exactly in postindustrial societies. Superheroes in the spirit of Carlyle, new encyclopedism and moralism, cult of progress, and magic of the masses — also trolls, chimeras and other ancient monsters— are growing among the ruins of the industrial 20th century. Soon all of them will gain a common place inside the global artificial intelligence. In a way, the History will just begin.


Guskov: It reminds me of Marxism: only as Communism comes the real History will start.

Shuripa: Soviet Marxism–Leninism was a late version of Gnosticism. Nowadays, we don’t have such density between the Past, the Present and the Future as it was in the last century. But maybe waiting for the Singularity has a post-religious connotation. The spirit will be happy, free, always awake and universally recognized. And the bodies will roam “the desert of the Real” or be hanged in farms of cocoons. At this exact moment a new aeon of history will begin.

April 8, 2021