Wolverhampton School of Art

Dr Alexei Penzin


Alexei Penzin
Email address: A.Penzin@wlv.ac.uk Phone number: 01902 322415 Location: MK Building, MK704 Faculty: Faculty of Arts School/Institute: Wolverhampton School of Art Areas of expertise: Critical Theory, Marxism, Continental philosophy, art theory, cultural theory


Dr. Alexei Penzin received his PhD from the Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. His research centres on contemporary interpretations of Marxist thought, continental philosophy and critical theory, contemporary art theory, and Soviet and post-Soviet intellectual and cultural history. 

Penzin has published his research in numerous journal articles in such journals as Rethinking Marxism, Mediations, South Atlantic Quarterly, Manifesta Journal, as well as in many edited collections. His essay ‘Rex Exsomnis’ (Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012) was part of the dOCUMENTA13 series. Currently, he is preparing his book Against the Continuum: Sleep and Subjectivity in Capitalist Modernity, for publication by Bloomsbury Academic in 2017. 

He has also presented papers and given lectures at many international conferences and academic and cultural venues, including Historical Materialism annual conferences, ‘Former West’ congresses, dOCUMENTA13 in Kassel, the Goethe Institute, Serpentine Gallery, Yale University, and the University of Oxford.

Research interests

Alexei Penzin has several fields of research interest: sleep, vigilance and capitalist modernity; the formation of subjectivity on its philosophical, aesthetic and political registers; theories of the avant-garde and the biopolitics of the Soviet avant-garde of the 1920s; the intellectual history and rethinking the socialisms of the 20th century.

Membership of professional bodies

Alexei Penzin is one of the founding members of the Russian group Chto Delat (“What is to be done?”), an internationally recognized collective of artists, writers and academics (www.chtodelat.org). 

Alexei is an Associated Research Fellow at the Institute of Philosophy (Moscow).

He is also a member of the editorial boards of Moscow Art Magazine and Stasis Journal (Saint-Petersburg).


Recent and forthcoming publications:


  • Arvatov, B. Art and Production, edited by John Roberts and Alexei Penzin, with an introduction by John Roberts and an afterword by Alexei Penzin, London: Pluto Press, 2017
  • Against the Continuum. Sleep and Subjectivity in Capitalist Modernity (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming in 2017)
  • Capitalism as Religion? Walter Benjamin’s Text in Critical Art Context, NCCA, Moscow (editor, forthcoming in 2016)
  • Rex Exsomnis. Kassel, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012 (pamphlet)

Prefaces to books:

  • Penzin A. (2014) Fredric Jameson: Open Dialectics // Preface to Fredric Jameson’s collection of essays “Marxism and Interpretation of Culture,” Yekaterinburg.
  • Penzin A. (2012) M for Multitude // Afterword to The Grammar of Multitude by Paolo Virno (Russian translation). Moscow: Ad Marginem.

Articles in peer-reviewed journals (selected):

  • Penzin A. Introduction: Antiquity and Modernity of Soviet Marxism, (co-authored with Maria Chehonadskih and Keti Chukhrov) // Stasis. 2017. Vol. 5. No. 2.
  • Penzin A. Мarx Against Marxism, Marxism Against Marx (co-authered with Valery Podoroga and Keti Chukhrov) // Stasis. 2017. Vol. 5. No. 2.
  • Penzin A. (forthcoming in 2016) ‘A Paradoxical Hypothesis of Communism by Alexandre Kojève and Boris Groys’ // Crisis and Critique.
  • Penzin A. (2014) ‘Tumult in the Land of Managed Democracy: An Introduction’ // South Atlantic Quarterly, 113.1.
  • Penzin A. (2010) ‘The Soviets of the Multitude (with Paolo Virno)’ // Mediations, Volume 25, No. 1.
  • Penzin A. (2008) Profanation оf Profane, or, Giorgio Agamben on the Moscow Biennale // Rethinking Marxism Journal, Volume 20, Number 3.

Articles and chapters in edited collections (selected)

  • Penzin A. Post-Soviet Russia // Fueling Culture: Words for Energy and Environment, ed. by Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger. Fordham University Press, 2017.
  • Penzin A. (2016) “Sleepers”: Representations of Sleep in Contemporary Art and Media (forthcoming in the edited collection of articles in IPHRAS Publishing, Moscow).
  • Penzin A. (2015) Book chapter in No Sleep No More, ed. by Danilo Correale, Berlin, Archive Books.
  • Penzin A. (2014) ‘The Biopolitics of the Soviet Avant-Garde’ // Pedagogical Poem. The Archive of the Future Museum of History, Marsilio Editori, 2014.
  • Penzin A. (2014) ‘The Only Place to Hide? The Art and Politics of Sleep’ // Cognitive Capitalism in Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism. Part Two, Archive Books, Berlin.
  • Penzin A. (2013) ‘The Catastrophes of ‘Real Capitalism’ (with Ilya Budraitskis) // Post-post-Soviet? Art, Politics and Society in Russia at the Turn of the Decade, Chicago: Chicago University Press
  • Penzin A. (2013) ‘No Time’: Contemporaneity between Time Pressure and Procrastination // More Light. Catalogue of the 5th Moscow Biennale, Moscow.
  • Penzin A. (2012) ‘Sleep, capital and subjectivity’ // in Subverting Disambiguities, Verlag fuer Moderne Kunst, Nurnberg, 2012
  • Penzin A. (2011) ‘From the Perspective of Hope’ (with Dmitry Vilensky) // On Horizons: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, BAK, Utrecht, 2011
  • Penzin A. (2011) ‘The Post-Soviet Singularity and Codes of Cultural Translation’ // Atlas of Transformation (ed. by Vit Havránek), Prague.

Recent conference papers and invited lectures (selected):

  • «Towards the Infinite: the Speculative Side of Late Soviet Philosophy and the Idea of Communism» // European University in Saint Petersburg, 25 October 2017
  • “The ‘Crisis of Ugliness’: Post-WWII Critique of Western Modernism in Soviet Marxism and Aesthetics (Mikhail Lifshitz and Evald Ilyenkov)” // workshop “Trauma & Revival: Contemporary Encounters”, 13-14 September 2017, Foundation Michelangelo Pistoletto, Biella, Italy
  • «Contingency and Necessity in Evald Ilyenkov’s Communist Cosmology» // conference «Art without Death: Russian Cosmism», Berlin, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 2 September 2017
  • Boris Arvatov's 'Art and Production', and Biopolitics of the Soviet Avant-Garde // Manchester University, 3 May 2017
  • “Every Drowsy Nod Shakes Their Doctrine": Sleep and Continuity-Form in Modern Philosophy and Art' / public talk in framework of the exhibition “Sensibile Comune. Le opere vive”, Rome, GNAM (The National Gallery for Modern and Contemporary Art), 22 of January 2017
  • 'The Continuity-Form. Towards a Theory of 24/7 Capitalism' / the conference “Communism of the Sensible”, Rome, GNAM - Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, 21 of January 2017
  • 'Dialectics and ‘Proletarian Awareness’ in Alexander Kojève’s ‘Sophia’ manuscript” (1941) // Historical Materialism Journal Annual Conference, London, SOAS, 10-13 November 2016
  • 'The Continuity-Form and its Cultural Dimensions: Towards a Critical Theory of the “Always-On” Capitalism' // the symposium ‘Agency and Crisis: Scenes from Political Philosophy and Contemporary Art’ // University of Wolverhampton, 19 October 2016
  • 'Sleeping Beauties and Vigilant Monsters, on the Politics and Aesthetics of Sleep' // conference “Sleeping Giants: Theories of Sleep in Art and Philosophy”, Tate Liverpool, 14 October 2016
  • "The Institutional: Post-communist Dimension" // Talk in the framework of Public Programme of the Athens biennale 2015-2017 "OMONOIA", Synapse 2: Rethinking Institutional Critique – a View from the South, International Summit, 15-16 April 2016
  • “What is ‘Real’ in Realism?” Lecture followed by seminar // The School of Engaged Art (Chto Delat), St. Petersburg, 31 March 2016
  • "Sleeping Beauties and Sleepless Monsters. Towards a Different Ontology of Capitalist Modernity" // invited lecture in framework of the exhibition “Tales of Exhaustion” at the gallery La Loge, Brussels, 4 March 2016
  • “Continuity / counter-continuity” // Glossary of Common Knowledge, Seminar co-organised by Internationale and at Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, 2 to 4 March 2016
  • ‘Conditio Sine Qua Non: The Continuity of Capital in Marx’ Grundrisse and Beyond’ // Historical Materialism Conference, Rome, 17-19 September 2015
  • "You Must Go On.” Towards A Genealogy and Cultural Logic of the “Always-On” Capitalism’ // Sandberg Art Institute, Theory Days conference, 3 June 2015
  • ‘The Capitalist Continuum: Sleep, Vigilance and Modern Power’ // invited lecture, University of Salford, Graduate Programme, School of Arts & Media, 6 May 2015
  • ‘Militant Subjectivity in Lenin’s Writings’ // conference “Political Violence and Militant Aesthetics After Socialism”, Yale University, 17-19 April 2015.
  • ‘Debates on the Avant-Garde after (or before) Communism’ // The Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford, 17 February 2015
  • ‘The Night Preserved’ // “A Bright Night: Technologies of Affect” / symposium organized by Serpentine Gallery and Goethe Institute, London, 5 February 2015
  • ‘When There’s No Time: An Ontological Hypothesis for 24/7 Capitalism’ // conference Debt Drive. Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Neoliberalism, University of Amsterdam, 4 June 2014
  • ‘Is Sleep Just a ‘Natural Barrier’ for Capital?’ // conference 'The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism: The Cognitive Turn, Goldsmith, London, 24 May 2014
  • ‘On Contemporary Temporality’ // “Other Survivalisms: Former West public editorial meeting”, Utrecht, 17 May 2014
  • ‘Sleep, Subjectivity and Artwork (lecture and seminar)’ // “What is Thinking?” – program of Documenta13 lectures and seminars, Kassel, 9-10 of July 2012
  • ‘Sleeping Politically (keynote lecture)’ // “Cairo Seminar” in framework of Documenta13, Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, 3 of July 2012

Further information

PhD Supervisions:

Director of Studies

  • Sunshine Wong
  • Anna Santomauro

Second Supervisor

  • Michael Birchall
  • Robert Wright