The installation Excerpts from a Diary is based on the alleged invention of Viktor Stepanovich Grebennikov, a self-taught Russian biologist who, from an early age became fascinated by insects and observed and studied them throughout his life. Grebennikov’s autobiography documents how, in 1988 while studying an insect specimen collected from Siberia, he discovered a phenomenon which he claimed to be biological anti-gravity or weightlessness. His writing describes his construction of a flying machine that utilised the hitherto unknown power held in the wings of this insect, and how he made flights above the local countryside, experimenting with his mysterious new technology. Since his recent death, the legacy of Grebennikov’s story has developed myth-like proportions in parts of Russia.
Laessing’s resulting work combines found film footage, interviews conducted by the artist with Grebennikov’s friends and family, spoken extracts from his autobiography and etchings based on Grebennikov’s original drawings.
It is an investigation into a personality that recaptures the spirit of the scientific amateur whose study enters the realm of utopic possibilities. Laessing sets out to neither prove or disprove the veracity of Grebennikov’s claims, but with great subtlety challenges the viewer to open one’s mind to the wonder of what might still lie beyond contemporary scientific understanding.