Moonlight at Noon
Text by Estelle Hoy
New World Agency™
“The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.” —Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto
Pumiced by reality, caught in repose and imagined worlds, we look to separate ourselves from physical laws, planets, and realities that cannot assure us the perpetual revenue of a safe and dreamy countenance.
We reduce ourselves to an admittedly angelic species, that is, a species demanding the gift of fictional or unlived realities. Are we properly enthroned in reality if we have not yet encountered the sacred gift of foreign, speculative alternatives? Here the face of truncated ideologies becomes a fictional landscape, a mantlepiece to lean on, a divine existence unrehearsed, suspension of disbelief, and bestows the confusion, the pleasure, and perhaps ultimately, the security of a higher truth. In pursuit of alien/alienating theatricality, Berlin-based collective Omsk Social Club, in witty, empathetic illusion, facilitate role-playing and Real Game Play to summon conjectural actualities.
With no affection for the ugliness of rehearsal, Omsk Social Club developed a spontaneous visage that leverages game design, and interactive installations, with abeyant participatory role-play (Live Action Role Play). A greasepaint in which public players are given room to assume different identities to examine art, politics, and life. Obliged by a near-sacerdotal function of improvisation, the collective mimes fantasy scenarios alongside players who physically represent their characters themselves. Waxing lyrical about the leaky matrix for 3hd 2022: Life, the Universe, and Everything at Zeiss-Grossplanetarium, the aggregate (alongside multi-media artist Joey Holder) produced The Waxing (2022), a participatory primer and audio-visual performance. Contenders were invited to attend a preliminary workshop at Callie’s in Berlin, invoking a sensitive, transcendental Eden that encouraged somatic insight and a sideways glance into an alien consciousness. The human species have been injured profoundly on Earth and require a monstrous, utopian regeneration in which we are rebirthed as beings despoiling the mime of reality. Together, all contributors were invited into meditative travel through space and time as the starry constellations of Orion and Draco, titivating the rarefied space of the planetarium, disappeared. Merging themselves with the ecologies of humans, Venusians, and walnut lineaments of the mind, actors prepared to enter the accompanying immersive installation. Spreading itself out on the dome, the video projected catechized hallucinatory experiences, communing with extraterrestrials and xeno-ecologies. Xeno-ecology is a way of knowing, above all, narratives: stories of socio-political significance because they encourage entanglement with another species, breaking bread with the Other. And this certitude is continuous because we create an unequivocal universe by the most legible of arguments: living to be present is a degrading spectacle. The Waxing is an intermediary signifier betraying the staged pageant of reality, exposing it as a total pretense by reaching beyond our present moment. Night and day, animals and chimera, reality and hypothesis, self and Other, human and Martian apparitions are confused, signifying the collapsed regiment of absoluteness. Genuflecting before Stanislavski at the speed of light, the artist collective resets time, ushering in a rigorous belvedere for self-analysis and unveiling what might already exist. Discovery rather than invention. It’s what people fear the most.
Dreaming of Mars, infinity, and cyberspace, Omsk Social Club astral traveled backward from Wedding, settling in for fifty-eight days at Kunstraum Kreuzberg with their longest-running Real Game Play. Unrealism (2020) presented a multi-modal game triggering an inner action that took programmed Obsidian to psychic oblivion: cosmic depression. Three platforms and two physical spaces (one room was inaccessible) scrutinized the ontology of the avatar and the atomization of necropolitics through the perspiration of online thought. Eight glitching gallery-goers took turns to collectively role-play as the key protagonist Eastyn Agrippa—a multiform being writing their memoir from the perspective of being an avatar, human, with legions of spirit forms. Virtual worlds, at once elliptical and pretentious, open us to the unremitting duplicity of existing and dying in a socially constructed, watertight conception of real life. Total artifice. Why survive in one polished world when you could thrive among the online operations of a judicial piece of evidence? Science fiction has a good number to its credit. For it is a good thing that a spectacle be created to make the world clearer, still, there’s a culpable duplicity in inversing the sign with what is classically signified. Panache is always balanced by civic responsibility. Carefully discouraging cosmic low-moods through a deceptive, violent aesthetic effacement of singularity is, frankly, intellectual—sole reality whose exiguity has eternally indicated a specific, phrenic folding of social power, virtue, and conquest. Collectivist artisans join the group in volute, otherworldly asymmetry, capitulating to chaos, alien apotheosis, and collapsed neutron stars—the bold refutation of a brave new world in pursuit of paradise. Paradise π.
Omsk is a salute to the Siberian city in which Fyodor Dostoevsky was exiled for sweating radical, divisive literature. However, everyone sweats since everyone is arguing with themselves about something controversial and unchartered; we aren’t supposed to be in a world of agonizing laborious calculations, chasing liberty and justice. Intentionally, through the great sadness on earth, Omsk Social Club dictates an astronomical apogee where we no longer function under pre-ordained, artistically cruel planetary alignment. Durational, spiraling installations and virtual realities are the collective’s approach to disintegrating the imaginary line between science fiction and social reality. Put simply, Omsk Social Club generates hypnotic theatre of the sky and mesmeric cyborg manifestoes where the soul is healed. Finding something to live for.
OMSK SOCIAL CLUB’s artistic practice is created between two lived worlds, one of life as we know it and the other of role play as a medium. These worlds bleed into one. That is where Omsk positions their fictions—through these immersive installations they move into a territory they coined in 2017 called Real Game Play: collective immersion and speculative worlding.
ESTELLE HOY is a writer and art critic based in Berlin. Her second book, the critically acclaimed Pisti, 80 Rue de Belleville (After 8 Books), was released in 2020 with an introduction by Chris Kraus. She is currently working on a book of essays and collaborating on a book and exhibition with Camille Henrot for ICA Milano. Hoy regularly publishes in the international art press. She is editor-at-large for Flash Art International.