The Dream of Eternal Life: Museum of Immortality II in Mexico City
Architects: Nikolaus Hirsch/Michel Müller, Darmstadt
Associate architects: CUBICA Arquitectos + LXL Arquitectos
Location: Mexico City
The dream of eternal life, the great promise of salvation of the Christian churches, is again enjoying a boom. But unlike in centuries past, it is no longer individual good behaviour or the assumption of a godly life that will lead to the goal, but rather advances in biotechnology and data processing. Some of the world’s richest citizens would like to have themselves frozen and then thawed at some point in the distant future. Internet billionaire Peter Thiel wants to extend his life span indefinitely with blood transfusions. An idea that, even ten years ago, was still dismissed as whacky is now being discussed as a real possibility – at least for the happy few who can afford it.
In light of all this the Museum of Immortality II, erected by Frankfurt architects Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller at the entrance to the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City, has a certain dramatic currency. The project was commissioned by the Design Week Mexico festival, which took place in October 2016 and featured Germany as guest country.
Public celebration of the cult of death has a long tradition in Mexico. The colourful annual festivities that take place on All Saints’ Day in cemeteries throughout the country are seen nowhere else on earth. The installation by Hirsch and Müller also follows a folk tradition which stands in stark contrast to the elitist vision of Peter Thiel and his contemporaries in Silicon Valley.
Explaining the work requires a bit of background knowledge. In the second half of the 19th century, Russian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov propagated the concept of the Common Cause, a social vision of the future directed at the colonization of space and the resurrection of the dead made possible by technology. Fyodorov wanted all social classes to benefit from these boons; his successors saw him as an early socialist. Fyodorov identified the museums of the world as ideal places for both the preservation and resurrection of the dead, for it was there that the curators’ expertise and the technology to make things last longer came together.
Much later, Russian-German philosopher Boris Groys worked with Fyodorov’s ideas to sketch the curatorial concept of a Museum of Immortality. In 2014, this was brought to life by the Russian artist and publicist Anton Vidokle in an exhibition held in Beirut. He commissioned 54 of his fellow artists to design installations in coffin-like containers, each of which was dedicated to the (hypothetical) resurrection of a particular historical or contemporary figure.
Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Müller have now moved the Museum of Immortality outside, abstracted it by removing all personal references and brought it to the vertical axis. They compare the dodecagonal structure made of hollow metal profiles and acrylic-glass blocks, which measures about six metres in diameter and 8 metres in height, to a hybrid of mausoleum and space capsule. An accompanying video by Anton Vidokle and Oleksiy Radinsky explains the theoretical foundation of the project. The large-scale sculpture will stand in front of the museum in the Bosque de Chapultepec, Mexico City’s largest park, until autumn 2017.