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Alexei Penzin

Alexei Penzin


  • Email address
  • Phone number 01902 2415
  • Location MK Building, MK704
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts
  • 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 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 2020. 

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.

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.

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 ( 

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).

HEA Fellow (since 2016)

PhD, The Institute of Philosophy, Academy of Sciences, Moscow (2006).


  • 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 2020)
  • Rex Exsomnis. Kassel, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2012 (pamphlet)

Prefaces to books:

  • ‘The ‘Electrification of Art’: Boris Arvatov’s Programme for Communist Life (an afterword) / ‘Art and Production’ by Boris Arvatov, co-edited with John Roberts, Pluto Press, 2017
  • 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.

Edited Issues of peer-reviewed journals:

  • “Antiquity and Modernity of Soviet Marxism”, Special issue of Stasis, 2017. Vol. 5. No. 2. (co-edited with Maria Chehonadskih and Keti Chukhrov)
  • “Democracy has become unmanageable!” Russian Protests in Global Context. South Atlantic Quarterly, 113.1, winter 2014 (invited editor of “Against the Day” section).

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.  ‘A Paradoxical Hypothesis of Communism by Alexandre Kojève and Boris Groys’ // Crisis and Critique, Volume 3, issue 1, 2016.
  • 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. (2019) "Always On: Capitalist Continuity and Its Discontents" in Time, Forward! ed. by Omar Kholeif and Karen Sarkisov, Prestel and V–A–C Press, London, p. 95-110, ISBN 978-3-7913-5908-3.
  • Penzin A. (2018) “Kontingenz und Notwendigkeit in Ewald Iljenkows Kommunistischer Kosmologie”, Boris Groys, Anton Vidokle (eds), Kosmismus, Berlin, Matthes & Seitz, ISBN 978-3-95757-416-9.
  • Penzin A. (2018) “Continuity-form and Counter-continuity”, Glossary of Common Knowledge, Moderna Galeria, Ljubljana.
  • Penzin A. (2017) “In Defence of Crude Thinking”, Critical Mass: Moscow Art Magazine 1993–2017, ed. by Viktor Misiano and Ruth Addison, Prague, ISBN 978-8-090671-42-3.
  • Penzin A. (2017) Post-Soviet Russia // Fueling Culture: Words for Energy and Environment, ed. by Imre Szeman, Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger. Fordham University Press.
  • Penzin A. (2016) “Sleepers”: Representations of Sleep in Contemporary Art and Media, 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 journal articles and short texts (selected):

  • Penzin A. “Cosmology of the Spirit” by Ewald Ilyenkov: An Interpretation from the Point of View of the Debates in Contemporary Continental Philosophy, Vox, 25, 2018, DOI: 10.24411/2077-6608-2017-00062;
  • Penzin A. “Communism and Entropy in Ewald Ilyenkov’s Cosmology”, Moscow Art Magazine, 107, 2018;
  • “Capitalism as Religion? On the Ruins of a Project”, Moscow Art Magazine, 104, 2018, pp. 116-126.
  • Penzin A. “Contingency and Necessity in Evald Ilyenkov’s Communist Cosmology”, e-flux, 88, February 2018.
  • Penzin A. “Anthropogrammes” by Valery Podoroga: Several Comments and a Comparative Study, Political Concepts. Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, 2, 2016.
  • Penzin A. “On Biopolitics of the Soviet Avant-Garde”, Moscow Art Magazine, 86-87, 2013.
  • Penzin A. “Formation of New Political Subjectivity: An Invention of Common Life”, Moscow Art Magazine, 2010, 75/76.

Recent conference papers and invited lectures (selected):

  • “Workdays without End. Towards the Genealogy of "Always-On" Capitalism”, International Conference “The Future with Marx”, Moscow School of Social and Political Sciences, 24-25 May 2019.
  • “Agamben’s Archaeology of Ontology”, Workshop “Opening Potentialities: Thinking Ontology and Action with Giorgio Agamben”, 15th of November 2018, Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, London.
  • “May 1968 on the Margins of October 1917: An Implicit Critique in Soviet Marxism”, the conference “Envisioning Emancipation: The Year 1968", 2d November 2018, The Institute of Philosophy of Czech Republic, Prague.  
  • “Dialectics and Speculative Thought in late Soviet Marxism: Ilyenkov’s Cosmology”, conference “Soviet Cosmologies and Ontologies”, 26th of October 2018, University of Westminster, London.
  • “‘Thinking Matter’ in the Universe: Evald Ilyenkov’s Communist Cosmology”, e-flux lectures, New York, 24 May 2018.
  • “On Speculative Aspect of the Soviet Philosophy (Ewald Ilyenkov and Mikhail Lifshitz)”, conference “Philosophies of Revolutions”, University of Chicago, Neubauer Collegium, 21-22 May 2018.
  • «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.


Continental Philosophy, Critical Theory, Art Theory, Intellectual History

“The Human Animal: Themes in Philosophical Anthropology”, University of Wolverhampton, 2019 (UG, Single Hon. Philosophy).
“Philosophy of Art”, University of Wolverhampton, 2019 (UG, Single Hon. Philosophy)
“Thinking Through Democracy”, University of Wolverhampton, 2018-2019 (UG, Single Hon. Philosophy)
“The Enlightenment”, University of Wolverhampton, 2017-2018 (UG, Single Hon. Philosophy)
“Contemporary Theory and Practice”, University of Wolverhampton, 2013-2018, PG
“Studio Contexts”, University of Wolverhampton, 2014-2019, PG
“Philosophical Anthropology – A Critical Perspective”, The State University of Humanities (Moscow), 2009-2013, UG (Philosophy)
“After the Shock: A Genealogy of the Post-Soviet Society”, RGGU (Moscow) and Dickinson College (USA), 2010, UG
“Avant-Garde: Theory, Politics, Praxis”, The Institute of Contemporary Art in Moscow, 2008, UG



PhD Supervisions:

Director of Studies

  • Sunshine Wong (PhD awarded in March 2019)
  • Anna Santomauro

Second Supervisor

  • Michael Birchall (PhD awarded in 2016)
  • Robert Wright