The Excluded, in a Moment of Danger, 2014, is a 4 part video installation in which the institution of the prison links a number of tense historical moments of struggle, when competing visions of the world were at stake. Activist friends and graduates of the School of Engaged Art that Chto Delat operate in Saint Petersburg take stock of where they stand: orphaned agents of history, they recount their own history. They discuss the events until, in mid-speech, their voice loses all meaning; they crack up, stand up, become bodies, and come together: a community of people who are awake and perplexed, afraid and alert, who need each other.
Founded in Saint Petersburg in 2003, Chto Delat has sought to revive the tradition of the Russian avant-gardes and their contribution to the revolutionary optimism of the period. The group has taken a stand against Vladimir Putin’s regime and championed a communist alternative to capitalism. Its repertoire has included Brechtian songspiels, participatory theater, learning murals, public actions, and propaganda designed to counter the authorities’ management of public opinion; in a newspaper, of which 38 issues have appeared to date, they have interwoven their artistic praxis with philosophical and political discourses.
Chto Delat has steadfastly held on to the utopian idea that another life is possible and used art to limn its outlines.
Chto Delat (What is to be done?) was founded in 2003 in Petersburg by a working group of artists, critics, philosophers, an writers from Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism. The group’s name recalls the first socialist workers’ self-organizations in Russia, which Lenin portrayed in his “What is to be done?” (1902). Chto Delat as a collective operates in different media such as video films, graphics, and murals, learning theater, newspaper publications, radio plays, and militant theory. The artistic activities of Chto Delat are orchestrated by four member artists—Tsaplya (Olga Egorova), Nikolay Oleinikov, Glyuklya (Natalia Pershina), and Dmitry Vilensky—who often cooperate with Russian and international artists and researchers in joint projects realized under the collective name of Chto Delat.