Without a doubt, this state of self-censorship in which the museum finds itself creates a broad field for the construction of reality – or, more precisely, for the construction of a rhetoric of doubt. In the case of the MMC, this was a powerful mix of the rational and the mystical: from arguments about the cosmos and the history of scientific and technological progress to the pretense of issues with the fonts and designs used in your project, to turning to the unseen higher power (along with the cosmonauts), who presides over all the decision-making that goes on in the Museum of Cosmonautics, and who felt compelled to nix the Cradle of Humankind offered by Zhilyaev. Genuine respect goes to the efforts expended by the museum in piling up arguments, little by little building up to the conclusion that it would be utterly impossible to make the exhibition, rather than delivering a simple, crude "no," which would have done just as well. But you're right – the museum conducts itself entirely as an art project; the rhetoric around the cancellation was built on a whole other vision of Cradle of Humankind, which, with a considerable degree of the sublime, thanks to the conversations about the cosmos.
What's also interesting to me in this situation is always the mechanism for decision-making on the presence of art in a museum. It is clear that in the majority of situations, this right belongs wholly and indivisibly to the director. At the MMC, it was more interesting, as there they have an art collection and quite a lot of experience in holding temporary exhibitions, but this means that, on the one hand, there's formal procedure for consultation with the advisory board of the scientific museum, but on the other hand, it has a confidence in regards to its competency in determining what is art and what isn't. And we passed through all of this, all the discussions, the meetings with the research director of the museum. Interesting that at the end of this tunnel, just at the final bend in the director's office, there's always this call for some document from above, which needs to certify that this is indeed art (once in a desperate situation – a week before the opening of an international project – I had to bring this kind of document to the Institute of African Studies from the Ministry of Culture.) And of course, I had no doubt that if I had that kind of document with me at the MMC, this whole episode might not have happened.
a.z.: That's really interesting! It strikes me that this rhetoric of doubt is pretty much inherent in critical or artistic perspectives – almost as a rule. Actually, it is through this constant questioning of the monolithic ideological structure presented to us from above that art to this day pretends to possess some kind of special knowledge. In part, this is what used to distinguish the professional from the amateur, the art of the avant-garde from mass culture and kitsch. But what has happened is that in today's reality, the artist now faces some serious competition. And here I'm not talking in terms of production capabilities – no one has any doubt here that mass media and polytechnical departments have incomparably greater potential when it comes to the formation of images and the creation of situations – but rather in terms of the inherent critical view of intention. You could say that we've found ourselves in an era beyond the looking glass, when what appears at some moment to be a scanning gaze turns out to be locked in a system of broken, critical mirrors. And there is no longer a clearly defined system for the ideological apparatus of the state. This public space beyond the mirror, the space of mutual surveillance, where it is already decidedly difficult to identify where the original impulse came from and which way it was pointing.