Artists speak! S02 E03: Chto Delat (What is to be done?) | KROKODIL
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Artists speak! S02 E03: Chto Delat (What is to be done?)

Artists speak! S02 E03: Chto Delat (What is to be done?)

KROKODIL Centre for Contemporary Literature, 43 Karadjordjeva st.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023, 7PM Participants: Olga Egorova, Dmitry Vilensky and Branislav Dimitrijevic

In the new episode of the series Artists speak!, Branislav Dimitrijević speaks with Olga Egorova and Dmitry Vilensky of the art collective Chto Delat (What is to be done?) from Petersburg. We shall take the opportunity of their temporary residence in Belgrade to talk about today’s Russia, about the situation in which are the opponents of Putin’s regime and the aggression against Ukraine and primarily about how this situation is reflected in the activities of the group. We shall depart from their most recent project, “The Canary Archive” (2022) and talk about their earlier projects, about their relations towards Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav conditions, and in general about the spirit of collectivism in art as well as about addressing the most important question of them all: what is to be done?

The collective Chto Delat (What is to be done) was founded in 2003 in Petersburg by a workgroup of artists, critics, philosophers, with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism. The core of the group includes 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). 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 collective makes a strong focus on the issue of cultural workers’ labour rights and politics of comradeship. 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 2013, Chto Delat initiated an educational platform—the School of Engaged Art and also provides resources for a social centre in Saint Petersburg called Rosa’s House of Culture. In 2014 the collective withdrew from participation in Manifesta 10 in Petersburg as a local protest against the developing Russian military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea and with this act has triggered a current debate on the participation and boycott of art events.

The activity of Chto Delat artistic cell is realizing across a range of media—from video and theatre plays to radio programs and murals—it includes art projects, seminars and public campaigns. The works of the collective are characterized by the use of the alienation effect, surreal scenery, typicality and always analyses of concrete social and political struggles. The economy of Chto Delat collective is supported by its own Mutual Aid Fund which accumulates all incomes from projects, grants, royalties, donations and sales of artistic work. This fund is redistributed for the support of the different activities of the collective and for the benefit of the larger community.

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