THUS SPOKE HEAVEN Building upon his earlier investigations on the non-linear nature of experienced time, while taking a long view on the Western tradition, sculptor Valentin Korzhov presents his last project, “Thus Spoke Heaven”, considering the question of Nihilism from Plato to Nietzsche and Heidegger. The title of the project is an allusion to the work of Nietzsche, and his diagnosis of nihilism as one of the most serious crises in the history of humanity, challenging the use of history and the value of meaning for life. The Nietzschean Death of God speaks about the impossibility to think about God, and therefore about the transcendence of human life, in the hitherto traditional ways passed down by tradition, since Plato. In this situation of groundlessness, as an abyss unfolds before us, swallowing the whole of reality, we are no longer able to move within the habitual concept of linear time, and are ought to enlarge the past, far beyond the limits of history.

Resolving the crisis of nihilism, per force of necessity, takes us all the way back to the beginning of the European philosophical tradition, and we begin to question the foundations of reason, and accordingly, the institutions of modernity. Bereft of a teleological direction in history, and faced with the inevitability of cosmic contingency, the ultimate question returns: How to create something out of nothing? Korzhov, as a reader of both Nietzsche and Heidegger, approaches the question through decisionism and nonfoundationalism: The history of metaphysics, insofar as it has been concerned with truth and certainty rather than Being, is necessarily the history of the destruction of Being. While the recovery of meaning is not possible once the foundations have been shattered, the Nietzschean Übermensch is prepared to face the timeless universe in its godlessness, becoming one with the primeval chaos of the physical world as it was understood by philosophers earlier than Plato.

In this series of sculptures, silver-plated anthropomorphic representations, resembling the human remains of Pompeii, awaiting their ultimate fate, the artist is deploying a multilayered chain of symbols. These symbols, set against the possibility of concrete historical meaning, oscillate between language and poetry, philosophy and mysticism. The scribblings on the bodies, not unlike the ritual markings in a totem, reveal archetypal symbols of consciousness, but that is only the opening for deeper layers in Korzhov’s visual vocabulary: A numerical system references Plato’s Timaeus, the Bible and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, and other scribblings are also derived from the inscriptions in early Christian catacombs, Roman graffiti and the handwriting of Leonard Cohen and Kurt Cobain. This ambivalence between past and present, embedded in objects that perform the role of archaeological artifacts and futuristic remains simultaneously, is central to the artist’s critique of reason.

Multiple, if not infinite readings are possible, in this complex atmosphere of symbolism and anti-meaning. Yet, Korzhov’s engagement with Nietzsche, throws us back immediately at Plato’s Timaeus and the mythical origins of both reason and the first conceptualizations of the natural world. Born out of Socratic skepticism, modern Nihilism is simply a return to the impossibility of origins postulated by antiquity. “Thus Spoke Heaven” summarizes up to this point, Korzhov’s decade long engagement with the history of metaphysics, the crisis of temporality, and the paradoxes of modernity with its own past. Generally speaking, the search for origins has been understood by the tradition, also as an awareness of our ultimate end; but without a clear beginning in history or time, we remain bound to the immediacy of earthly experience and the yet unfulfilled existential possibility of transcendence. This search for a return to origins was already damned in the Timaeus: Our origins are all around us, all the time.