"The Nature of Eden" exhibition is the final stage of the artist’s long-term research dedicated to a study of various unconventional methods of psychological help aimed to cope with various mental crises (from chronic stress to more serious psychological problems). One of them is shopping therapy. Shopping centers can be seen as medical centers (instead of temples of consumption), consumers as patients, and the choice of an item and the purchase itself as a therapeutic action. As a result of studying shopping centers around the world as well as related patterns of behaviour, the artist noted that all of them have a tendency of a certain programming of visitors’ actions, quite similar to some meditative practice. At the same time, shopping centers are finding more and more opportunities to give consumers an illusion of a new experience: recreational areas are being created from tropical plants, fountains, artificial waterfalls, aquariums with exotic fish species, which make the shopping area more and more look like a paradise island, that doesn’t actually exist on the map. It was this illusion and imitation that fascinated the artist the most.
The title of the project is referred to the game called "Game of Life" created by the British mathematician John Conway, in 1970, and representing a cellular automaton — an algorithm consisting of a set of simple rules. The game’s action takes place in a “universe” marked on the cell surface, imitating a “life” in which colored cells participate, the mentioned cells may be in a state of “living” or “dead”. The player arranges or generates the initial configuration of “living” cells, which interact according to the rules, but without his or her participation — he or she becomes an observer. Depending on the initial arrangement, figures may endlessly move during the game and / or reproduce new elements. Configurations that cannot be created by any previous combination, that is, cannot appear as a result of evolution, are called "Garden of Eden".
While viewing the installation in the first room, the artist invites each viewer to become a kind of a performer, an important actor: to pick up any card from the maze in exchange for any metal coin, and thereby get involved in the consumption process, which forms both the mechanism of human behaviour in shopping centers and which is also the basis for shopping therapy. The second room with a three-channel video installation reflects the process of acknowledgement with the shopping center as a meditative practice. Especially for it, composer and sound designer Dima Anikin wrote the “glider” soundtrack (called as one of the figures of Conway’s game), which is a reflection on music in shopping centers and meditation music. "The algorithm of the game called "Game of Life" became the basis for music creation. — notes Anikin. — It is a successful attempt of a mathematician to prove the existence of simple self-reproducing systems, as well as the appearance of their own “mind”. Human is needed only to launch their life, which autonomously lasts without the participation of its creator".
"The Nature of Eden" project was originally created before the coronavirus pandemic, but, as it turned out, is still relevant in the post-pandemic time. For example, in Asian countries, after the restrictions’ cancelation, such a thing as revenge shopping is observed again — despite the development of online commerce and delivery services, people returned to their habit of visiting shopping centers and making non-essential purchases. A similar situation can be observed now in Moscow malls. The new time with the rules of social distance also coincided with the artist’s initial idea about the mechanism for spectators to familiarize themselves with the installation in the first hall: simultaneously there can be only one person.
The music for this project was written by composer and sound designer Dima Anikin.
Alexander Shchurenkov graduated from the Institute of Contemporary Art (Russia) in 2018. In 2017 he participated in an artistic residency on creating large-scale installations in Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts. In 2018 his solo show in Vacation gallery (New York, USA) was featured by ARTNews as one of most anticipated events of the week. In March 2019 he took part in High House artist residency (Norfolk, UK) under mentorship by Antony Gormley.
Dima Anikin is a composer and sound artist from St. Petersburg. Since 2006, writes songs for his project, called "resequence". Here, he experiments with methods of organizing a sound field: from synthetic electronic sound to sampling live sounds, noises and acoustic instruments (guitars, kalimbas, Soviet chromatic tuning tonometer, etc.). Dima Anikin worked with Pavel Pepperstein and Carsten Nikolai, wrote music for exhibition projects, theatrical performances and cinema.