- Who we are
The collective Chto Delat (What is to be done?) was founded in early 2003 in Petersburg by a workgroup of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers from St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism.
The group was constituted in May 2003 in St. Petersburg in an action called ‘The Refoundation of Petersburg.’ Shortly afterwards, the original, as yet nameless core group began publishing an international newspaper called Chto Delat?. The name of the group derives from a novel by the Russian 19th century writer Nikolai Chernyshevsky, and immediately brings to mind the first socialist worker’s self-organizations in Russia, which Lenin actualized in his own publication, “What is to be done?” (1902). Chto Delat sees itself as an artistic cell and also as a community organizer for a variety of cultural activities intent on politicizing “knowledge production”. The activity of collective takes responsibility for a postsocialist condition and actualization of forgetten and repressed potentiality of Soviet past and often works as a politics of commemoration.
In 2013, Chto Delat initiated an educational platform—School of Engaged Art in Petersburg and also runs a space called Rosa’s House of Culture. From its inception, the collective has been publishing an English-Russian newspaper focused on the urgent issues of Russian cultural politics, in dialogue with the international context. In 2014 the collective withdrew from the participation in Manifesta 14 in Petersburg as a local protest against the developing the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and with this act has triggered a current debate on the participation and boycott of art events.
The artistic activity is realizing across a range of media—from video and theater plays, to radio programs and murals—it include art projects, seminars and public campaigns. The works of the collective are characterized by the use of alienation effect, surreal scenery, typicality and always case based analyses of a concrete social and political struggles. The collective make a strong focus on the issue of cultural workers labour rights.
These activities are coordinated by a core group including Tsaplya Olga Egorova (artist), Artiom Magun (philosopher), Nikolay Oleynikov (artist), Natalia Pershina / Glucklya (artist), Alexey Penzin (philosopher), Alexander Skidan (poet and critic), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher), Dmitry Vilensky (artist) and Nina Gasteva (choreographer).