a video project by Chto Delat
realised by Tsaplya [Olga Egorova], Nikolay Oleinikov, Dmitry Vilensky
Text: Bertolt Brecht
In this new piece, we decided to try to imagine protest in form of theatrical happening in urban space. This action was carried out in close collaboration with two local activist groups, namely “Worker’s Democracy and The Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement”.
In fact, these activists have a great deal of experience in street politics; they participate in demonstrations of protests and picket-lines, and hand out flyers. As such, they have retained that basic form of grass-roots political culture that has an entire aesthetic of its own.
Together, we defined the goal of the piece. We wanted to visualize “In Praise of Dialectics”, one of Bertolt Brecht’s most striking poems.
The site of this visualization would be Stachek Square, from where the striking workers of 1905 marched on the Winter Palace (stachka means “strike” in Russian). We decided to bring Brecht’s poem out into this urban space line for line, carried by “engaged” sandwich people.
Bertold Brecht’s body of work was a such an important point of reference because it contains such a broad variety of aesthetic methods to answer the call of the concrete historical situation. In Brecht’s work, there is a clear understanding of how dialectical mechanisms are always at work in creativity, describing reality as a process of constant change that arises as a result of the conflicts and contradictions that makes the transformation of society possible.
In our piece, we tried to imagine how this dialectic might work today. Silently coagulating and reconfiguring their body-signs to the soundtrack of passing cars, these sandwich people demonstrate the potential of new representational constellations between protesting singularities from a broad variety of backgrounds and age groups pensioners, activists, children thrown into a dialectic of constant change.
But at the end of our piece, we asked our participants to read Brecht's poem out loud. The effect is very strange, and might be described with what Brecht called the alienation effect: the silent motility of political potential erupts into decisive poetic speech, distancing the spectator from the action’s reconfigurative flow. Recited in a “Soviet” mode, the poem now resounds with the depleted pathos of the revolutionary past, a re-collection (Er-innerung) of the very language that new forms of protest aspire to negate.