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”.
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.
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 aesthetics of the group is based on heretic unpacking the artistic devices offered by Bertolt Brecht, Jean-Luck Godard and Reiner Fassbinder.
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).
Recent exhibitions include:
KOW BERLIN (solo show) 2017 (2015), San Paulo Biennale 2014, Art, Really Useful Knowledge Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789–2013 – Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, 2013; FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects,, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2013; 10th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, 2012; Chto Delat in Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kuntsthalle, Baden-Baden, 2011; Chto Delat Perestroika: Twenty Years After: 2011–1991, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, 2011; Ostalgia, New Museum, New York, 2011; Study, Study and Act Again, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, 2011; and The Urgent Need to Struggle, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 2010.
The works of the collective are part of the collections at
The Museum of Modern Art , New York; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Museum Reina Sophia, Madrid; LE CENTRE POMPIDOU, Paris; MUDAM, Luxemburg; Tretyakov Art Gallery, Moscow; KIASMA, Museum for Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco; Museum of Conteporary Art, Belgrade and many others