- Stano Filko 1937 – 2015
- Pvc fabric, mirror glass, steel, paint, leather, rope, wood, ink and graphite on paper, black and white gelatin silver print on paper and slide, 320 slides, 4 projections, colour and sound (stereo)
- Displayed: 3500 × 4500 × 7000 mm
- Presented by Roman Zubal 2018, accessioned 2023
Cosmos 1968–9 is an environment made up of a large pneumatic structure in the shape of a spherical dome or ‘3/4 globe’ as the artist referred to it (Filko 1970, p.79). Inside the partial globe sequences of slides are repeatedly projected onto the interior walls accompanied by pre-recorded radio broadcasts. The tent-like structure can be viewed from outside and entered into so as to experience the complete environment. Measuring 350 centimetres high by 450 centimetres wide by 700 centimetres deep, the globe is made of a resilient tarpaulin / PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fabric. The exterior surface is khaki-coloured and the interior surface is a reflective silver. The structure has two tunnel-like pointed arches as openings, both made from the same fabric, through which visitors can enter and exit the dome. The word ‘entrée’ (meaning ‘entrance’ in French) is hand-written in capital letters on the fabric entrance with an arrow pointing to the left. The dome is supported by a central metal column or tower in the shape of a rocket, with supporting metal structures at both entrances over which the fabric is stretched. Cosmos is based on the principle of an air pressure chamber with a constant flow of air running through it. The globe is inflated by an external air ventilation fan system, an integral part of the environment, and therefore appears to be ‘breathing’ when visitors enter and exit. The ventilator keeps the globe inflated and is programmed to switch on when more air is needed. The artist intended that the sound of the flowing air should create a particular atmosphere inside the Cosmos by ‘reacting psychically and physically upon the visitor’ (Filko 1970, p.79) – his aim was to evoke the experience of being in outer space. Cosmos is accompanied by related material which consists of three photographs and a blueprint, which can either be shown either alongside the work or in a separate display.
The floor inside Cosmos is made up of square mirrors (each measuring 25 by 25 by 6 centimetres) on which viewers can stand. The mirrors reflect the spherical dome, optically creating a whole globe at the same time as reflecting and multiplying both the audience and projected images within the space. A vertical metal pyramid-like structure, in the shape of a simplified three-dimensional rocket, stands in the centre of the mirrored-floor. The pyramid contains six triangular-shaped shelves, each painted a different colour, ascending from turquoise, to yellow, green, blue, black and pink. The lower four shelves each house a slide-projector, all of which repeatedly project images in a random sequence onto the interior silver walls of the dome. Each projector holds eighty slides, totalling three-hundred and twenty slides across the four projectors. Of these, there are one-hundred and ninety unique images, so that some of the images repeat. The images were sourced from the artist’s archive of magazines and advertising images that circulated in the press and media, and are photographs depicting space travel and space technology from the 1960s. Pre-recorded radio broadcasts from the period 1961 to 1969 relating to space exploration and the conquest of the cosmos are played as digital audio files from a vintage radio located inside the dome on the second to top shelf of the central structure. The news reports were sourced from the Slovak Broadcasting Corporation and American space agency NASA and are in a mixture of languages. When the work was originally displayed in the Sixième biennale de Paris, manifestation biennale et internationale des jeunes artistes from 2 October to 2 November 1969, the artist included a working radio so that visitors could select live radio broadcasts according to their preferences.
In his review of the 1969 Paris Biennale, the French art critic and curator Pierre Restany referred to Filko’s environment as a ‘dynamic space’, describing the slides projected on the inner walls as being ‘reminiscent of various technical phases of interstellar adventure’ (quoted in Slovak National Gallery 2016, p.51). Filko had grown up in Slovakia during the era of the ‘space race’ between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, part of a generation inspired by the dream of conquering space and the development of new scientific inventions. 1968 marked the year when the Soviet Union led Warsaw Pact troops in an invasion of Czechoslovakia, to crack down on reformist trends in Prague. From 1968 onwards Czechoslovakia entered a period of so-called ‘normalisation’ by the ruling Communist regime. The idea of cosmic space as a projection of the desire for freedom and independence became a typical theme of Slovak conceptual art. In notes which Filko compiled after creating Cosmos, he extended the title as part of his SF (his initials) System to Cosmos – Universe – 4th Dimension – More Times – Astrocosmologinomy.
Filko began constructing pneumatic sculptures such as Cosmos in the second half of the 1960s and designed utopian architecture, presenting his cosmological visions in environments, installations, visual and textual concepts, cosmograms and diagrammatic drawings. His complex spatial installations which included Universal Environment 1967 and Poetry on Space – Cosmos 1967, invited the viewer to act as a co-participant and co-creator. The artist viewed these models of the world as a ‘living reality’ in which the interaction of each spectator was important and through which they would become a ‘living sculpture’ (Filko 1970, p.33). Like Cosmos, a number of his works included mirrored floors that reflected and multiplied the composition of the spaces and visitors within them. Filko commented: ‘The visitors thus become living sculptures for themselves and also for the other visitors who are actually in the environment.’ (Filko 1970, p.45.) The mirrored-surface can also be experienced as a place for self-referential contemplation.
After the Paris Biennale in 1969, Cosmos was not exhibited again until 2016 when it was included in the artist’s solo exhibition Stano Filko: Poetry on Space – Cosmos at the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava in 2016. Here it was displayed alongside the combined work Rocket – Observatory Tower with Lifts 1967 and Nothing on Electric Revolving Base 1967, as it had been in Paris in 1969.
Stano Filko, Stano Filko II 1965/69, Bratislava 1970, reproduced pp.77–9.
Stano Filko, exhibition catalogue, Slovak and Czech pavilion, Venice Biennale 2005.
Lucia Gregorová Stach and Aurel Hrabušický (eds.), Stano Filko: Poetry on Space – Cosmos, exhibition catalogue, Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava 2016, reproduced pp.59–61.
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