… the artist is an illegitimate cosmonaut.
This is from The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment by Boris Groys (2006):
Utopia will be a long time coming, as we all know, for the construction of the ultimate utopia is a slow historical process that requires the collective effort of generation upon generation. But not everyone can live with that. And one who couldn’t was the hero of Ilya Kabakov’s installation The Man who Flew into Space from his Apartment.
[line break added] He didn’t want to wait until the whole of the rest of society was ready for utopia; he wanted to head off for utopia there and then — flying out into cosmic space where he would no longer be tied to a particular place, a particular topos, but would be in an ou-topos, a ‘not-place,’ weightless, floating free in the cosmic infinitude. So he built an apparatus that was capable of catapulting him straight from his bed into outer space.
[line break added] And the experiment evidently worked — all we see is the room the man used to occupy. … Inside the room we see the bed and the remains of the apparatus, along with some technical drawings showing how the apparatus functioned. A section of the ceiling directly above the bed has been destroyed. It was through this hole that the man shot out into space.
Ilya Kabakov, The Man Who Flew into Space from his Apartment, 1988
… there was no need for this apparatus to be particularly powerful because its maker had discovered that ‘immense vertical currents of energy’ pervade the whole of the cosmos. In his view all he needed to do to get to the cosmic utopia was identify the topology of these currents and calculate the precise moment when a person could take advantage of them.
… the hero of the installation was brought up on radical Soviet atheism, dialectic materialism and scientific communism. Dreams and spirits are not enough for him. He only believes in the material, the physical, the real world. He doesn’t pray. And he doesn’t dream. Instead he constructs a device that he has designed himself on the basis of specific scientific principles, and uses it to launch himself, body and soul, into outer space.
[line break added] The only thing that distinguishes this undertaking from a strictly scientific experiment is the supreme importance of the right moment. The positive sciences regard time as homogeneous, which by definition means that any experiment is capable of being repeated. The hero of the installation, on the other hand, has to identify the exact moment when certain, otherwise dormant, cosmic energies enter a period of activity.
[line break added] This is the type of science pursued by revolutionaries and artists — it’s a matter of not missing the right moment, of allowing it to propel one into the unknown. It’s a matter of recognizing and making specific use of nameless energies that have a cosmic and a collective effect, but which generally go unrecognized.
… the hero of this installation did not appropriate and channel this energy in the same way that a proper cosmonaut would have done. He wasn’t appointed by either the state or society to serve as an embodiment of the collective dream and to orbit the earth on behalf of his fellow citizens, representing society as a whole. No, the artist is an illegitimate cosmonaut. He appropriates, privatizes and deploys global utopian energies entirely for his own ends, without previously having been selected and authorized by society.