This project is an artistic inquiry into one of Petersburg 's most fascinating and contradictory neighbourhoods Narvskaya Zastava.
In looking at a map of Petersburg, one immediately sees that Narvskaya Zastava is an isolated zone, surrounded by a ring of factories, railroad tracks and shipyards. Before the revolution, it was part of the city's proletarian periphery, an historical hotbed of dissent. After the revolution, during the 1920s, the neighborhood became the main center for the development of a new, socialist Leningrad, which is why it contains most of Petersburg's constructivist monuments. Today, Narvskaya Zastava reflects the entire complex of social problems that arise with the "transition" from socialist to capitalist society. Unlike the tourist-center of Petersburg, the neighborhood has become an "invisible zone". This state can be interpreted as typical of many smaller towns on post-Soviet territory, where the old models of socialist community composition and new class-constellations coexist in considerable tension.
On the whole, the project "Drift. Narvskaya Zastava" was dedicated to the analysis of everyday life, continuing the traditions of critical realism and situationist practices. Using contemporary methods of documentation, it attempted to capture the neighborhood's social, architectural and demographic situations. In order to do so, a workgroup of artists, architects, sociologists, writers etc. organized a mobile sociological center, which was set up at a number of different points in the neighborhood. Using this material as a base, the workgroup's artists have created video-films, sociological diagrams, audio-art, and installations, realizing a subjective mapping of social space.
Around 1900, the historical center of Petersburg with its famous ensembles, palaces, temples and theaters found itself girded by an enormous industrial ring, exceeding the center in surface area by far. It was dominated by industrial buildings in red-brick and brownstone, factories and workshops, interspersed with residential housing. Frequently, these were slums. Characteristic for the city's proletarian outskirts, one of these neighborhoods sprang up on the banks of Obvodny Canal . The poverty and unsanitary conditions that reigned here drew a great deal of protest and dissatisfaction, so that the first Russian urban planners were already proposing measures for the redevelopment of Petersburg as early as the 1900s. Unfortunately, these suggestions remained projects. Real work on reconstruction and improvement of the proletarian outskirts only began with the rise of the Soviet regime. First and foremost, this concerned Narvaskaya Zastava - the city's largest industrial district, formed near to the Narva Gate and the Putilov Works Petersburg 's industrial giant. The first attempts at reconstructing Narvskaya Zastava were undertaken in the early 1920s. They were primarily connected with the construction of new residential areas. The social revolution, not only in Petrograd-Leningrad, began with a revolution in housing. This was connected to the first steps of nascent Soviet architecture, which afforded a great deal of attention to the building of comfortable housing for workers. In Leningrad , real construction-work only began in 1925, once the period of economic ruin after the Revolution and the Civil War had abated. It was at this time that the city administration began to liquidate slums and began to construct the first experimental residential areas. The fact that the reconstruction of the urban outskirts began here was no coincidence. The young Soviet regime was displaying its concern for the workers of the region, which was famous for its stormy, revolutionary past.
I can't say that I have any personal connection to Narvskaya Zastava. In my personal perception from childhood onward, this neighborhood seems very far away. And this is what makes this neighborhood so strange. Because if you look at it rationally, it's actually quite close to the center. You don't actually have to travel very far; you only have to cross the Obvodny Canal and drive down Petergof Prospect or Gaza , as it was been called for all of my life, for as long as I can remember. On the one hand, it's very close, but on the other, this neighborhood is very far away, as far as psychology is concerned.
So let's say you've reached Repin Square . On the one side, there's the Admiralty. On the other side of Repin Square , the Fontanka River ends. You already have the feeling that you've reached the end: gate, bridge; the end of the city. If you drive on, you'll have reached Narvskaya Zastava, and you'll already have the feeling that everything is different.
Official history can be juxtaposed to the memory of silent social groups. To the official version of the past, this memory is undesirable and even dangerous. Thus, we would like to add a number of missing elements to the official memory of Petersburg and Leningrad , which we find boring in its organicity (and dangerous in its consequences). More specifically, we would like to give a voice to those who do not usually write articles or memoirs about their view of the city, about their city. In today's spectacular society, it turns out that no-one really wants a history of Narvskaya Zastava and its memory of a proletarian area, of social projects, or of the unsuccessful attempts to build communism and to accommodate the disenfranchised.
The territory behind the Narva Gate represents an embodiment of socialism's homogenizing influence. We can read this space as a system of significance whose meanings are supplied by socialist reconstructions, aesthetically negated by the ideology of young, wild capitalism. This area was meant to typify the victory of the revolution and of social equality, the triumph of the urban way of life over the rural, the supremacy of a worker's neighborhood over the center, and the privilege of worker's avantgarde, the industrial administration and the factories' party elite.
The difficulties in analyzing the "dérive" (=drift) are connected to the surplus of semantic and historical contexts, whose mutual displacement actually provoked the praxis of the dérive itself. This semantic core of displacement can be found in the many connotations of the word "drift" (dérive), which vary according to their usage in geology (the motion of tectonic plates), maritime navigation (a ship's passive passage along powerful currents or in floes of ice), market analysis (uncontrollable changes in the value of stock), technology (fluctuation of indicators or gauges), physics (motion of stochastic particle distributions), genetics (local mutations), perceptive psychology (micro-movements of the eyes, destabilizing images in order to bridge over gaps in the visual field), demographics (the geographical direction of migration flows). On the whole, drift implies latent, indiscernible, extra-mental displacement , arising in a wave that carries something away, sweeping it up and along, dousing its activity, engulfing it completely, in what seems to be an altogether pleasant way.
03.09.04 Day One
16.10. Meeting at "Kirovsky Zavod" metro-station. First Artem appears, then Tsaplya. Kirill and Gluklya are late. We look for a place to hand out the maps and "instructions". The "Cobweb" Café: proletarian menu with matching prices. Regulars relax at little tables after a hard day's work. The radio announces eight ambulances and four dead children in Beslan. Following a brief newsflash, pop-music and the sound of meat being tenderized in the kitchen. We talk about the conception of the dérive. Gluklya asks why Debord killed himself. No-one really knows. Tsaplya hands out colored felt-tip markers, notebooks, and maps.
17.00. Stachek Prospect. Pedestrian underpass. At the entrance, the sign that says "Kirovsky Zavod" (Kirov Works) dovetails with an "Alpha Bank" advert. Tsaplya shows us a portrait of [the famous revolutionary] Gaza , after whom the neighboring House of Culture is named. In the 1970s, it hosted a famous exhibition of Leningrad nonconformists. On the way, I send Polina an SMS: "Where is that side-street, where is that house? Where is that little miss what I once loved?" [=line from a Russian song whose meter cannot be rendered in English]. I am attracted to the song because of its last line's agrammatism. Oh yes, and because of all the memories of the proletarian revolutionary saga "Maxim's Youth", which rhymes with my own youth in a funny sort of way. At some point, we come up to "Kiryanov's Datcha", the Civil Registry Office where I legally registered my second marriage in 1988, was it? When I tell the others, Gluklya and Tsaplya decide to give me a present. I ask them to sing "The Blue Ball Turns and Spins" [=another song, with the same melody and meter as the preceding one], and I sing along with them with a mixture of tenderness and yearning.
All cities are geological; you cannot take three steps without encountering ghosts bearing all the prestige of their legends.  [...]. These dated images retain a small catalyzing power, but it is almost impossible to use them in a symbolic urbanism without rejuvenating them.  This new vision of time and space [...] will remain [imprecise] until experimentation with patterns of behavior has taken place in cities specifically established for this purpose. [...] The principal activity of [their] inhabitants will be the CONTINUOUS DÉRIVE. The changing of landscapes from one hour to the next will result in complete disorientation... 
Ivan Chtcheglov, Formulary for a New Urbanism , 1953
 Take, for an example, Narvskaya Zastava and its Czarist arche de triumphe, its run-down early 20th century worker's housing, its constructivist projects. The total installation of real socialism's architectural legacy, an ice-floe, stratified in layer after layer of historical problematique and ambivalent utopian projection. In other words, Narvskaya Zastava is excellent psychogeographical terrain. Its (spectral) utopias are only waiting to be brought back to life.
Most importantly, we were trying to avoid fakeness. Since there was a very real threat of becoming fake, it seems to me that uninterrupted and rather honest self-criticism was the most valuable result of our work. This was the element of seriousness that accompanied our game. I call it a game because there was something childish about it: we prowled the city's spaces and the quotidian that they belong to. They gave way to us far more than we expected, becoming extremely plastical, as an answer to our secret invocation to be little different. What is ostensibly a territory for work became a field for play. People who were otherwise hardly spoiled by contact with cameras stepped into communication with us very ethusiastically, becoming theatrical, playing for us, demanding attention. It was as if the neighborhood itself had become sensitive to the situation of our "drift"; its inhabitants were drawn into this situation for just a single moment, against the background of a workaday in which any of us would have probably grown numb and unable to respond to any interest from art, history, or anything thing else.
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Chto Delat (What is to be done?) was founded in early 2003 in Petersburg by a workgroup of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers from Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhny Novgorod with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism.
The group was founded in May 2003 in 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 author Nikolai Chernyshevsky, and immediately brings reminiscences of the first socialist worker’s self-organizations in Russia, which Lenin actualized in his “What is to be done?” (1902). Chto delat sees itself as a self-organizing platform for cultural workers intent on politicizing their “knowledge production” through reflections and redefinitions of an engaged autonomy for cultural practice today.
The platform Chto delat is coordinated by a workgroup including following members:
Tsaplya Olga Egorova (artist, Petersburg), Artiom Magun (philosopher, Petersburg), Nikolai Oleinikov (artist, Moscow), Natalia Pershina/Glucklya (artist, Petersburg), Alexei Penzin (philosopher, Moscow), David Riff (art critic, Moscow), Alexander Skidan (poet, critic, Petersburg), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher, Moscow), and Dmitry Vilensky (artist, Petersburg). In 2012 the choreographer Nina Gasteva has joined a collective after few years of intense collaboration. Since then many Russian and international artist and researchers has participated in different projects realised under the collective name Chto Delat (see descriptions of each projects on this web site)
Chto Delat collective in Kronstadt in 2005
Standing: from the right: Oleynikov, Gluklya, Timofeeva, Shuvalov, Tsaplya, Riff, Penzin
Sitting: Magun and Vilensky)
Our Principles: Self-Organization, Collectivism, Solidarity
The Chto Delat platform unites artists, philosophers, social researchers, activists, and all those whose aim is the collaborative realization of critical and independent research, publication, artistic, educational and activist projects. All of the platforms initiatives are based on the principles of selforganization and collectivism. These principles are realized through the political coordination of working groupsthe contemporary analogue of soviets.
The projects undertaken by any of these groups represent the entire platform and are closely coordinated with one another. At the same time, the existence of the platform creates a common context for interpreting the projects of its individual participants. We are likewise guided by the principle of solidarity. We organize and support mutual assistance networks with all grassroots groups who share the principles of internationalism, feminism, and equality.