In the course of the research I carried out for caméra(auto)contrôle, the central exhibition of the last edition of 50JPG (2016), I became increasingly distressed as I discovered our huge ignorance as regards the data collection industries and their links with government administrative bodies. The potential for controlling citizens, and their opinions, have constantly increased in the meantime and states are putting ever more legislation in place allowing future authoritarian regimes to control us well beyond what George Orwell might have imagined with his dystopia, 1984.
Three months before the official opening, three friends spoke to me separately about astrophysics, to me as someone who has never understood anything about mathematics, physics, or indeed astrophysics. One of them is a theorist, Jordi Vidal, another a musician, Vincent Haeni, while the third, Charles Ganz, is involved in architectural marketing. Being totally ignorant of these worlds, I was fascinated by the fictional aspect of the various current theories, whether it be the string theory, for example, or theories involving parallel universes. These scientific fictions, based on rationality—the same rationality that led us out of superstition, or indeed away from mainly monotheistic religions—put me in a good frame of mind that carried me along to the official opening. Moreover I again encountered that overflowing enthusiasm with Andrew Strominger who commented in his lecture relating to the still mysterious interface between gravitation and quantum mechanics that we were living through an extraordinary moment in the field of physics, infecting his public with his enthusiasm. It was on the occasion of the Gravity – Universal attraction Wright colloquium at the University of Geneva which attracted a full house every evening in the second week of November 2018.
It is a pleasure to share with so many earth-dwellers a gaze directed towards the skies, not in order to see God, but perhaps to discover the scientific explanation of the origins of our cosmos, the explanation of where we come from. (And its implicit corollary: the question of where we are going). When I wonder about what each of us, our gaze turned towards the stars, hopes for from his or her observation, I suppose that the answers must be equal in number to the stars in the Milky Way. But one thing is obvious, and not everyone is willing to admit it, particularly those who expect to leave this earth within 20 years: we have only one earth and it is going to be necessary to make do with it.
Jordi Vidal drew my attention to a book that came out in 2014 in the “encre marine” collection, a book by Alexei Grinbaum, Mécanique des étreintes. A philosopher and quantum physics theorist, he follows a thread leading from Greek philosophy to Christian theology and on to quantum mechanics, questioning how it is possible for us to take two entities for a single one. He constantly uses words that are found as much in the erotic field as in cosmology. There are many examples: the force of attraction of bodies, noces quantiques [quantum weddings], the fusion of two entities. Alexei Grinbaum also relates that “on leaving Eden Adam and Eve wished to agree about the answers to be given when they were questioned in the future. The agreement they signed up to is nothing other, metaphorically, than a ‘hidden’ act of coordination such as is described by Einstein’s heretical theory of ‘local hidden variables’." [1]
In his book Love and Math, the mathematician Edward Frenkel describes the film Rite of Love and Death, directed and acted by the writer Yukio Mishima based on one of his short stories: “A mathematician creates a formula of love, […] but then discovers the flip side of the formula: it can be used for evil as well as good. He realizes he has to hide the formula to protect it from falling into the wrong hands. And he decides to tattoo it on the body of the woman he loves.”[2]
If Cupid and Eros are now being related to mathematics and quantum physics, Eros has already had a relationship with Cosmos since the time of the Greeks. Jean-Pierre Vernant in The Universe, the Gods, and Mortals describes the birth of the Cosmos in these terms:
“At the very beginning, what existed first was the Void; the Greeks say Chaos. … It is an emptiness, a dark emptiness where nothing is visible. … Then Earth appears. The Greeks call it Gaia. Earth rises up in the very heart of the Void.”
“After Chaos and Earth third in the sequence comes what the Greeks called Eros, and later called ‘Old Love’ (pictures show him with white hair): This is primordial love. … This original Eros is not the one that will appear later on, with the occurrence of men and women...”
“Earth first gives birth to a very important figure, Uranus, ... the same dimension as she. He lies sprawled on her who brought him into being. (He) … covers Earth totally. From the moment that Gaia–the powerful divinity, Mother Earth–produces Uranus, her exact correspondent, her duplicate, her symmetrical double, we are in the presence of a pair of opposites: a male and a female. Uranus is the Male Sky just as Gaia is the Female Earth.”
“The primordial Uranus has no activity other than sex. Covering Gaia ceaselessly, as much as he can–that is his sole idea, and all he does. So poor Earth is constantly pregnant with a whole stream of children–who cannot get out of her belly, who stay stuck right where Uranus begat them. Since Sky never pulls apart from Earth, there is no space between them to let their  offspring–the Titans–emerge into the light and lead an autonomous existence…” and “…Uranus maintains a continual night by lying on Gaia. Then Earth lets loose her resentment. … She calls on … the Titans in particular saying: ‘You must rise against your father’. … Earth … inside herself shapes … a steely instrument–a sickle… She puts the sickle handle into young Cronus’s fist. … Just as Uranus empties his seed on Gaia, Cronus captures his father’s sexual parts in his left hand, grips them firmly, and wielding the sickle with his right hand, he slices them off. … From this organ, severed and flung behind him, drops of blood fall to the ground, but the organ itself flies still farther off and into the briny deep. At the instant he is castrated, Uranus utters a howl of pain and pulls away from Gaia. He then goes to settle at the summit of the world, no longer to leave it again. … By castrating Uranus, … Cronus achieves a fundamental stage in the birth of the cosmos: He separates the earth from the sky. … But then Uranus withdraws; the Titans can emerge from the maternal belly and in their turn create progeny. The way is then opened to a sequence of generations.”[3]
Uranus’s sexual organ, cast into the sea by Cronus, “floats, and the foamy sperm mingles with the foam of the sea. From that foamy combination around the organ which moves at the whim of the waves a superb creature is formed: Aphrodite, the goddess born of the sea and the foamy sperm. … In the wake of Aphrodite, moving forward after her, Eros and Himeros, desire and tenderness. This Eros is not the primordial Eros, but an Eros who demands that there should henceforth be masculine and feminine. It will sometimes be said that he is Aphrodite’s son. This Eros has therefore changed his purpose. He no longer has [the same] role as at the very beginning of the cosmos ... His role now is to unite two very individualised beings, of a different sex, in an erotic game that presupposes a love strategy with all that involves of seduction, harmony, jealousy. … Eros … is agreement and unity between two elements as dissimilar as feminine and masculine can be.”[4]
In Greek mythology Eros plays an eminently important role at the time of the constitution of the cosmos. Eros is also described by Jean-Pierre Vernant as the force that is always moving, a bit like the cosmos which is constantly expanding. While Eros in his initial phase has the reputation of being a matchmaker, for example egging Uranus on to mate with Gaia, the exhibition OSMOSCOSMOS is attempting through photographic and videographic images to bring Eros and Cosmos together, or to put it in more modest terms to bring together images dealing with eroticism and ones referring to the cosmos, and vice versa.
The only image in the exhibition that is not photographic or videographic is an abstraction: Cosmic Fuck by Lee Lozano. This graphic work, constructed by the artist from the symbol of the infinite, contains within itself what the exhibition cannot convey visually: that moment of extreme exaltation in erotic union, between two beings, at the climax of ultimate arousal, that moment of shared pleasure which for a short moment of eternity makes us feel we are only one, in osmosis with one another, merging with the cosmos.
Through their descriptive power photographs and videos retain an allusive nature, compared with the precision of Lee Lozano’s drawing which offers a representation of erotic osmosis. Isn’t it allusion among other things that distinguishes the erotic from the pornographic, the latter being duty bound to let everything be seen? The erotic imagination has been enriched by a large number of new erotic and sexual fantasies since the 1970s. Those are the years when I was reaching maturity, sexually and intellectually. For very wide strata of society in the western world the struggle for sexual self-determination was played out in those years and it certainly constitutes a marker of the last century. In this sense the OSMOSCOSMOS exhibition is an attempt to follow the lines of the years from the “Summer of love” in 1967 up to the present day, and celebrate sexual desire outside all ideologies of suffering and guilt, of the type the monotheistic religions violently impose, just like the reaction to their oppression, not always more liberating, such as the Marquis de Sade and his advocates.
What was being played out then in contemporary art and in society, a possible overturning of patriarchy, started with the struggle for civil rights, for equality between women and men, between women and women, between men and men, and for respect for children. For OSMOSCOSMOS, the artists of those years form the starting point for a great diversity in representing Eros, also including criticism of the practices involving misogynistic representations that came into being at the same period, such as publishing businesses enjoying worldwide success such as Playboy or Lui[5]; many artists unmask the apparent nature of genders, and throw overboard the coded roles of “masculine/feminine”[6].
Eroticism did not become a 20th-century –ism as Duchamp had wished, but it continues to feed the output of art in the 21st century. Of course the issues are no longer defined by the question of showing or not showing. There was nothing more subversive in the art of the 50s and 60s than exhibitions of pornographic photographs (from Lebel to Richter and Warhol by way of almost all the interesting artists of those years). The only thing is that pornography has become the most lucrative business on the Internet (a radiographic performance in the exhibition will deal with that form of eroticism). When I was recently invited to a school of photography as part of a mock jury, I noted how the students presented their works as a collective to highlight their parallel worlds and above all the attention they gave to working together. A small group had chosen the word “Obscene”. None of the objects and images presented in a miniature format had anything obscene about them, far from it, other perhaps than something allusively erotic. Convinced I was in the presence of a misunderstanding, I steered the discussion towards the pornographic, and it turned out that these young women and men, around 25 years old, had grown up with pornography on the internet and wanted to have absolutely nothing more to do with it.
In the constant transgression of moral codes during the last century, there was perhaps a moment when transgression imploded. As the writer Alain Robbe-Grillet says, “pornography is other people’s eroticism”. 1989 was the year when the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution was celebrated, and it also provided the context for the exhibition Magiciens de la Terre. That year Ilona Anna Staller, a member of parliament for the first Italian green party, then for the Radical Party, turned up on the ultimate scene, that of penetration. Those photographs of La Ciccolina with the post-Pop artist Jeff Koons showing everything belong to the series Made in Heaven (another attempt to marry eros and cosmos!). They caused a scandal at the Venice Biennale. The question of whether “to show or not to show” seems to arouse no interest today. The contemporary question is much more about “how to show”. How can images different from those marked by the codes of representation of patriarchy and colonialism be produced?
A very major part of the exhibition can be seen as following the paths embarked on by the artists of the 1970s/80s. Thanks to #metoo among other things, the questions of the emancipation of men and women from their positions as dominant/dominated fortunately nurture many of today’s debates. Among other things OSMOSCOSMOS sets out to be the echo of this awakening of feminism and the questions relating to gender. But all these thematic aspects are only tiny fragments of a whole that is hard to grasp. The two themes, eros and cosmos, are already almost inexhaustible. The construction of the exhibition has not followed lists of artists or thematic pointers. It is much more the outcome of a  mental and physical wander during the last three years, with images gleaned in the way in which Mona gleans them in the film Sans toit ni loi. It is a juxtaposition of parallel worlds, not necessarily intended to be found under the same roof, under the same law.
Great changes have also taken place in astrophotography, but changes of a different nature, mainly thanks to computer-aided photography. If the next to latest outstanding moment in our extra-terrestrial relations was the landing of a Chinese probe on the “Dark Side of the Moon”, the latest was the first photographic proof of a black hole, though it is not yet photography in the sense of the recording of a photon. It is no longer light rays, but sound waves coming from a distance of 53 million light years that have been recorded, then interpreted by Katie Boumann. She was the one who had developed the algorithm at the MIT which made it possible to coordinate all the data gathered by eight radio-telescopes across the world to produce the image we saw recently, that of the first black hole at the heart of the M87 galaxy.
While OSMOSCOSMOS does not attempt to follow in the footsteps of the Surrealists’ Eros exhibition[7], neither does it seek common ground with the avant-gardes of the 1920s, for example with the book Painting, Photography and Film in which László Moholy-Nagy juxtaposes abstract photograms and X-rays or astronomical photographs.
OSMOSCOSMOS does not make use of scientific photography. Most of the images with references to the cosmos are the artefacts of photographers and artists. The images are derived from their imagination and not from a cosmonaut’s Hasselblad. Just one projection, with magazine and newspaper headlines, will sum up the conquest of space close to the earth, and an amateur astrologer woman photographer from Buenos Aires as well as two Genevan amateur astro-photographers will present part of what they have garnered, thanks to the major changes in the taking of shots, digital images and their computer enhancement, including a galaxy that was discovered by one of them. Two established artists are showing scientific photographs they have acquired at certain scientific institutions. The fascination of the avant-gardes of the 1920s with looking at the very near and the very far perhaps finds its equivalent today in the initiatives of a geostrategic nature, such as those displayed by Trevor Paglen, especially in the course of his lectures. His way of reading our firmament in the era of drones and satellites is a salutary position, with its offensive aspect at a moment of history, already described, when the control industry is immensely powerful, accelerated among other things by the injection of billions of dollars following the Twin Towers attacks in New York, which justified the Patriot Act. We know what followed.
The exhibition design is the work of Alexandra Schüssler, the co-curator of OSMOSCOSMOS. The rooms are plunged into semi-darkness, illuminated only by the fixed and moving images and the lighting in the showcases where printed photographs are exhibited, whether they be fine-art prints, books or press photographs. This strategy of mounting in showcases or on the walls with projection recognizes the debt it owes to Aby Warburg. The historian of art and civilisations, side-lined during the 20th century and so prized in the 21st, showed his exhibition Collection of images on the history of astrology and astronomy at the Hamburg planetarium at the water tower in a Hamburg city park in 1930, before being transformed into a planetarium. As he had worked a lot with copies, “the experience of authenticity” was replaced in his case by an “experience of meaning”. In that sense OSMOSCOSMOS, like all the CPG’s exhibitions, is relying on the “experience of meaning”. It is an atlas to the most subjective constellations, inviting viewers to construct their own cosmos. It is said that Aby Warburgs astrological library is the largest in the world. Unfortunately we have not been able to pursue his interest in either non-European cosmologies or astrology. Not because we did not wish to, quite the opposite, but quite simply for lack of space, resources and time.
We are very grateful to the artists for agreeing to go along with us and alter the nature of their photographs, whether in a material way or in format. It is thanks to their participation in the exhibition project that OSMOSCOSMOS can offer constellations of images that make up a very subjective cosmos, or even an atlas. On the other hand, some selections of images could not be followed through because of the refusal by some artists to accept the conditions of the proposed arrangement.
Distances of all kinds remain a determining factor in a world that claims to be globalised. In this sense OSMOSCOSMOS is an opportunity to rediscover artists who have worked with the CPG in the past. They are a third of all. By this means we are also following another underground thread in the CPG’s programming, that which consists of showing the same image in different exhibitions, to suggest different possible interpretations of it.
However, despite the lack of space and other lacks, there is still room on this page to include these few lines, recollecting that other ways of life, different spiritual outlooks bringing together eros and cosmos, dwell on the planet you are standing on as you read these lines. In his book Les Bûchers de Bénarès – Cosmos, Eros et Thanatos  Michel Onfray writes that “[In Indian erotic art] sex is simple, natural, in tune with the cosmos, never separated from reality, the world, life, other people, always there to remind us of the connection between the parts and the great whole.”[8] And he goes on to develop his ideas: “Now sex is not everywhere, any more than it is nowhere. It is in the world, one force among thousands of others. There is a libidinal energy just as there is a spermatic potency of flowers, a reproductive force of astral bodies, a tropism of cosmic flows, a magnetism of animal vigour, all of them representing variations on the immaterial, invisible unique force.”[9]
Joerg Bader
Curator and director of the Centre de la photographie Genève

[1] Alexei Grinbaum, Mécanique des étreintes, Éditions Les Belles Lettres, 2014, Paris, p. 89
[2] Edward Frenkel, Love and Math, Basic Books, 2014,  New York, p. 232
[3] Jean-Pierre Vernant, L’Univers, les Dieux, les Hommes, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1999, pp. 15 – 22 ; English edition, The Universe, the Gods, and Mortals, tr. Linda Asher, Profile Books, London, 2002, pp. 3 – 9
[4] Jean-Pierre Vernant, L’Univers, les Dieux, les Hommes, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1999 p. 25 – 26 ; English edition, The Universe, the Gods, and Mortals, tr. Linda Asher, Profile Books, London, 2002, pp. 10 – 13
[5] See the journal absolu, pub. by the singer Claude François who sometimes got involved in work as an “erotic” photographer
[6] This is also the title of an exhibition, one of the first to establish a kindred-spirit relationship between mainly Surrealist modern art, and contemporary art with its emphasis on eros. Féminin/Masculin, shown at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1996, was organized by Marie-Laure Bernadac and Bernard Marcadé.
[7] The exhibition inteRnatiOnale du Surréalisme was held at the Galerie Cordier, organized by André Breton and with contributions by Marcel Duchamp in the exhibition and the catalogue, Paris, 1959-1960
[8] Michel Onfray, Les Bûchers de Bénarès – Cosmos, Eros et Thanatos, Éditions Galilée, Paris 2008, p. 66
[9] Idem, p. 71/72