How many exhibition works:
A group exhibition featuring Bonnie Camplin, Annie Goh, Jackie Karuti, Janina Kraupe-Świderska, Alexandra Paperno. Curated by Daria Khan.
The title of this exhibition is inspired by the enigmatic painting ‘Cosmic Mother’ (1970) by the Soviet artist Galina Konopatskaya (1911–1989). In the painting, the Cosmic Mother appears as an ethnically ambiguous, androgynous person holding a baby in their arms. Both mother and child wear astronaut suits and are floating in outer space. The composition echoes Christian Orthodox icons of the Madonna and Child found in churches, but instead of the traditional golden halo surrounding the Madonna’s head, the Cosmic Mother floats in front of planet Earth.
This 1970 masterpiece belongs to the tradition of Socialist Realism, a style of state-sponsored art used to spread communist propaganda and atheist values in Soviet Russia. Konopatskaya’s painting suggests the holy Madonna should be replaced with an atheist image of a woman-astronaut. Her figure alludes to the first woman in space – the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 – and the supremacy of science and technology over religion. But women’s emancipation under communism was deceptive. The state needed women to enter the labour market, as well as to become mothers, in its quest to become the world’s leading power, during the Cold War. It demanded both kinds of labour, to conform to the state’s production and reproduction growth plans.
Yet, what would happen if we set aside this context? If, instead, we chose to view the image through the prisms of cyberfeminism and queer science-fiction, and in doing so, build an alternative system of knowledge around it? Dispensing with its historical context might leave us with another, liberated image – a futuristic portrait of an almighty science fiction icon, a gender-fluid Goddess, a cosmic carer.
This image acts as an invitation to re-imagine the history of art and feminism to our advantage. It asks us to reflect on the relationship between science, ideology, and the imagination. Could we view the Cosmic Mother as an optimistic premonition that speaks to a queer universe, a place independent of biological parenthood, where participation in the realms of science, technology and religion are no longer gendered and racialised – but equalised? Artists’ works in the show draw on cosmologies, science-fiction, esoteric practices and ancestral mythologies that deconstruct officially approved scientific discourse. Featuring video, sound, painting and drawing, the exhibition examines the way alternative knowledges and radical imaginations overlap across cultures and geographies, and act as a tool to resist a dominant world order of utility, convenience and standardisation.
The exhibition was made possible thanks to Taus Makhacheva, Dominik Pajewscy, Grażyna Świderska, Mateusz Swiderski and Paulina Olowska.
Mimosa House, 47 Theobalds Rd, London, WC1X 8SP