Prosthetic Aesthetics

"Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs, he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on him and they still give him much trouble at times." Sigmund Freud

Ilya Kabakov: The Palace of Projects 1995-98 | Part Two: Limitless Worlds

Following on from the first part of Ilya Kabakov’s ‘Foreward to the Installation’ from his Palace of Projects installation, Kabakov describes the layout of the structure where visitors can spend time engaging with one of the sixty-five ‘projects’ on display. He states:

…the world consists of a multitude of projects, realized ones, half-realized ones, and not realized at all.¬†Everything that we see around us, in the world surrounding us, everything that we discover in the past, that which possibly could comprise the future – all of this is a limitless world of projects…

By engaging with this Ur-project, he suggests that the individual can discover their own ‘project’, a means by which we can progress from mere survival to existence.

[……………….. ]

It is particularly important to note the construction of the walls of the ‘palace’ which not only shield and separate the palace from the space surrounding it, but they (the walls) also have an ‘illuminating’ function. They are made from semi-transparent plastic fabric and are stretched between wooden structures. The ceiling is also made of the same fabric. The lighting inside the palace passes ‘through’ these walls; from the outside, on the walls of the dwelling surrounding this ‘palace’, projectors are mounted which aim light through these ‘walls’. As a result of these shining walls, a special atmosphere emerges, similar to the insides of a Chinese lantern, which creates the required fantastic atmosphere.

What does the viewer see upon winding up in such a palace?

Inside there are 65 objects of various configurations and sizes representing models of each project. Near each such project is a small table and a chair; on the table is a description and commentaries on this model. Having sat down at this table the viewer can unhurriedly become acquainted with the essence of the project rather than rushing through with the ‘tourist’ method, as usually happens in museums where explanations are hung on the walls and therefore, as a rule, cannot be read. In this way, moving from project to project, from table to table, the viwer can have a greater co-experience with the idea, guided by the author, sitting in the specially lit, slightly yellow atmosphere that reigns inside the ‘palace’.


[……………………………………]

The installation displays and examines a seemingly commonly known and even trivial truth: the world consists of a multitude of projects, realized ones, half-realized ones, and not realized at all. Everything that we see around us, in the world surrounding us, everything that we discover in the past, that which possibly could comprise the future – all of this is a limitless world of projects.

But turning to oneself, thinking about one’s own life, we as a rule are not sure about this, we do not discover in ourselves, so it seems to us, any special project, especially not a major one which captivates us entirely. We think that to have a ‘project’ is most likely the business of some other, special people and therefore they are standardly referred to as ‘creative’, or it is in general some sort of special, extreme state which requires a special resolve and special personality traits.

But we are convinced, and we will try to demonstrate this in our installation, that the only way and means to lead a worthy human life is to have one’s own project, to conceive it and bring it to its realization. To have one’s own project, to realize it, perhaps, should be inherent in every person. The project is the concentration, the embodiment of the meaning of life. Only thanks to it can one establish ‘who one is’, what one is capable of; can one receive ‘a name’. It is only from the moment of the determination of one’s project that one’s true ‘existence’ and not just ‘survival’ begins.

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