First formulated one hundred and fifty years ago by the heretical scholar Nikolai Federov, the doctrine of cosmism begins with an absolute refusal to treat the most basic factors conditioning life on earth – gravity and time – as necessary constraints on action. As manifest in its early advocates’ intoxicated cheers that humans should storm the heavens and conquer death, cosmism’s foundational gesture was to reformulate the earth as a trap, and understand the role of philosophy, economics and design to be the creation of means to escape it – a heist in which the human species steals itself from the vault.
The force of this radical declaration of intent was swiftly curtailed by the stagey shows of national prowess and political-economic short-circuits of the so-called space race it helped to kick-start. But cosmism, at once a speculative intellectual vector and the design project par excellence, resurges today with new resources at its disposal. From recent work in AI and evolutionary biology to anonymous 13th century Arabic texts that proclaim humans to be more like god than are other animals because they are more cunning, this talk will map out footholds for a contemporary ascent into the dark.

Benedict Singleton is a designer and writer who lives and works in London. He is director and co-founder, with Ilona Gaynor, of the experimental studio The Department of No. Their work draws on architecture, film and writing to articulate sophisticated plots that explore contemporary developments in design, technology, politics, economics and law, and has been presented in venues around the world. The studio’s current major project, Under Black Carpets - a plan for the largest bank heist ever to be committed - will be debuted in a disused bank vault at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Sept. 2013.
The Matter of Contradiction is a series of workshops and seminars initiated by Sam Basu, Fabien Giraud, Ida Soulard and Tom Trevatt.
The Matter of Contradiction: War against the sun was organized in collaboration with Inigo Wilkins.
More informations can be found here:
War against the sun was held at Mute magazine offices at Limehouse Town Hall in London on the 1st and 2nd of March 2013 and followed by a workshop on the 3rd.
Special thanks to Val Ravaglia and Stephen Nachtigall for the video recordings of the event.

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