Anton Vidokle

Shot in Oliveto Lucano, a village in the south of Italy, AUTOTROFIA (meaning self-eating) by artist Anton Vidokle is a cinéma vérité style film that slides fictive characters into real situations, and vice-versa, to draw a prolonged meditation on the cycle of life, seasonal renewal, and ecological awareness. Combining fictional and non-fictional content, the film slips an interpretative script based on the writings of the painter Vassily Chekrygin, and the scientist Vladimir Vernadsky, within the context of an ancient pagan fertility ritual still practiced in the region.

The film’s impressionistic plot revolves around the ecological dimensions of Russian Cosmism. In particular, characters discuss a quasi-scientific, yet ethical quest: to learn how to generate nutrition directly from the Sun so as to eschew killing and consuming other living beings. This mystical philosophy is juxtaposed with the older pagan celebration of King Oak and King Holly: a harvest festival in which two trees that represent summer and winter are joint into one supernaturally tall tree, completing and connecting the seasonal cycle created by the orbit of our planet, the Earth, around the Sun.

The entire village of Oliveto Lucano participated in the making of the film, some helping with production and others taking on acting roles. Shot in Italian, the script was translated by the contemporary and highly influential communist autonomist philosopher Franco (Bifo) Berardi. With music composed by Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai), AUTOTROFIA represents an experimental collaborative process that may indeed mirror new ways of mystical collectivizing that organizes not only the means, but the memes of production as well.

Anton Vidokle is an artist and co-founder of e-flux magazine. Working primarily in film, Vidokle’s current practice focuses on Russian Cosmism, a school of thought developed by the Russian librarian Nikolai Fedorov (1828–1903) that tried to unite science, technology, religion, and art, and heavily influenced Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Kasimir Malevich, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and Leon Trotsky, among many others. Along with the critic and philosopher Boris Groys, Vidokle’s work with this repressed (by USSR) and buried philosophy has revised the historical record; its revival has become influential to contemporary artists working today, particularly in the Slavic sphere.