Border Musical – a film by Chto Delat
Premiere of the new Border Musical newly created by the collective Chto Delat for Barents Spektakel, 2013
Run time: 48:30 min.
Ola from Finnmark meets Tanja from Kola. They fall in love, Tanja abandons her past and moves with her son to her new husband. Through joys and challenges of their mixed marriage we get a glimpse into today’s Russia-Norwegian borderland across cultural and social norms and values. How our behaviour and worldview are influenced by culturally laden relations between individual, family and society? To what degree we are responsible for our actions and to what degree we leave it to the state? Who defines areas of responsibility? The Norwegian state and Ola’s best friend help the couple to build up a family based on the sound Norwegian values.
BORDER MUSICAL is not a description of the reality; it is a reality served in a spicy manner: through polished language and sharp definitions, exaggerated images and multifaceted characters, bizarre movements and eccentric scenes. Why cheer a mutual understanding when we learn from our differences?
Director: Tsaplya Olga Egorova
Idea, Screenplay, Set and Edit: Tsaplya Olga Egorova and Dmitry Vilensky in cooperation with Jesper Alvær.
Composer: Mikhail Krutik.
Director of Photography: Artyom Ignatov.
Cast: Anna Bulavina, Haldor Lægreid, Ketil Høegh, Maryon Eilertsen, Kristine Henriksen, Camilla Wiig Revholt, Ann Christin Elverum, Egor Semenkov, Nikolay Kurbatov, Mikhail Baranov, Andrey Molodchinin.
Choreographer: Nina Gasteva.
Producer: Pikene på Broen in cooperation with KORO, Bergen Assembly, FilmCamp, Filmgården and many others.
We are used to the reality principle of one-dimensional liberal propaganda, according to which, nothing can be better than the present state of things, which in fact means the neoliberal economy accompanied by the rhetoric of human rights and legal democracy. They say that communism was a utopian project, which ended in disaster, with violence and totalitarianism, and that the only thing we have left to do is to forget all hope for a better future for society and rather focus on our individual lives, to enjoy this eternal present, to use our possibilities and skills in order to succeed in working our way up a pyramid built of money, trampling the heads of others as we climb.
However, today, after decades of excessive ideological overproduction of the monstrosity of communism, a general anti-communist phobia has ended in a new disappointment. The liberal utopia, based on the notion of free individuals freely operating in a free market, was demolished by the intervention of the reality of a global economic, political, and ecological crisis. From this perspective, all the debates about communism became valuable and actual again, not only with communism as a valuable experience from the past, but also as an alternative for the future.
The only problem is nobody really takes it seriously.
Neoliberal institutions easily give their money to any kind of creative and sophisticated critic of the present, taking for granted that all these debates are based on market exchange, and that all the ideas discussed have their own nominal values. The ghost of communism still wanders around, and to transform it into a commodity form seems a good way to finally get rid of it. Conferences and artistic events dedicated to the idea of communism are going on one after another, speakers are paid or non-paid, advertisement production machines function well, and the sphere turns round as before.
But beyond this exhausting machinery of actualization and commodification, we still have as a potentiality this totally new desire of communism, the desire which cannot but be shared, since it keeps in itself a “common” of communism, a claim for togetherness, so ambiguous and problematic among the human species. This claim cannot be privatized, calculated, and capitalized since it exists not inside individuals, but between them, between us, and can be experienced in our attempts to construct this space between, to expose ourselves inside this “common” and to teach ourselves to produce it out of what we have as social beings.
We invite you to think, discuss, and live through these issues together at our seminar and try to find a form of representation for our debate.
During this seminar the platform is represented by Tsaplya Olga Egorova, Nina Gasteva, Artemy Magun, Alexey Penzin, Natalya Pershina, David Riff, Oxana Timofeeva, Alexander Skidan, and Dmitry Vilensky.
FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects consists of artworks, talks, discussions, rehearsals, and performances in various constellations of documents and prospects that offer a multitude of encounters with the public for negotiating the way of the world from 1989 to today, and thinking beyond. The seven-day period is guided by five currents that feature contemporary negotiations on Art Production, Infrastructure, and Insurgent Cosmopolitanism, with Dissident Knowledges contributions offering dynamic interventions into the ongoing program with artworks, performances, and statements. Finally, Learning Place operates alongside the full program involving students in workshops and inviting them to engage in the week of discussions.
Conceptualized by Maria Hlavajova and Kathrin Rhomberg in collaboration with Boris Buden, Boris Groys, Ranjit Hoskote, Katrin Klingan, and Irit Rogoff. FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects is a joint project by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht.
You Don’t Have to Be Leftist to Think Like That.
An Exhibition as a School (2012) GEZ-21, Pushkinskaya-10 Art Center, Petersburg
The line “You don’t have to be leftist to think like that” was uttered by a striking worker in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1972 film “Tout va bien”. Forty years later, it has the same ring as it did then: not as a depoliticizing slogan that abolishes a traditional way of marking political differences, but as a simple statement of the fact that leftist views and convictions have ceased to be a set of hackneyed ideologemes and are, rather, something basic to humanity’s survival.
Chto Delat starts from the notion that art and culture’s educational function are an essential aspect of its production of knowledge and meaning. Unlike other artists, who insist on art’s apolitical nature, Chto Delat has consistently upheld the idea that cultural production is implicated in the current political struggle and that cultural workers must constantly insist on the value of emancipatory politics and counteract culture’s commercialization.
In our exhibition projects we aim to create spaces and situations where audience and artworks engage with each other. In this project we want to turn the process of conceiving and producing an exhibition into a continuous series of workshops, seminars and round tables on art’s role in political development. We are confident of the project’s relevance for the current Russian conjuncture, in which the general public has shown greater interest in issues of political education and the desire to take responsibility for the country’s development. The project aims to equip participants with a set of creative tools for critically analyzing, understanding, liberating and transforming society.
But how can we achieve these aims given the absence of a civil society, at a time when the authorities show a flagrant disregard for both their own basic obligations and the law, thus untying the hands of the most reactionary forces and openly encouraging their violence?
It is a natural reaction to events in our country to come out against the authorities, join in the democratic demands of anti-government forces, and get involved in rallies and protest campaigns. But will anything change by endlessly chanting the mantra “The government has got to go”?
The question arises as to what kind of society can and must replace it. We believe that the most acute issue now is the development of an alternative public space for intellectual and political resistance. Obviously, this space can be generated only by a broad network of self-organized initiatives that require no external hierarchical coordination, because they will be based on the specific solidarity of cooperation.
This network must be recreated everywhere—in everyday life, at work, in the streets, at home. If this model of civil society is unable to achieve a critical mass of participants, superficial transformations of power will not lead to significant real changes. Culture and art have always played an essential role in man’s formation. They are our principal defense from the constant threat of barbarism. It is therefore necessary to fight for their values and oppose all forms of clericalism, bigotry, slavery and outright violence. The authorities understand this all too well and are thus carrying out a directed assault on the very idea of secular, critical and politically committed culture and education. Intellectual and research work, seriously underestimated by the opposition, can and should be a focus of the new mobilization as the unequal confrontation between state and society continues. To make this happen, we need to tackle a number of our own specific problems, which would help us impact the situation and turn it in a direction for which we are prepared to take responsibility.
Based on a real understanding of our circumstances, we first need to articulate our mission in our own workplace—that is, amongst people engaged in the production of culture, education and research.
We should first articulate these tasks and demands for ourselves, without holding out the hope that the current powers that be are in the least capable of carrying them out. On the contrary, we articulate them with a clear understanding that only a decisive change in the political situation can make it possible to begin the ambitious program of cultural transformation without which our society will be thrown backwards for many decades.
We want our project to serve as a platform for generating cooperation and consolidation within the fragmented and as yet apolitical milieu of cultural workers. If we do not do this now, tomorrow it may happen that most basic foundations of contemporary art, culture and education will not only be threatened, but will simply disappear from the map of the places where they had a chance to materialize.
And you don’t have to be leftist at all to think like that and make sure this does not happen.
In the course of the two days, artists, researchers, translators, teachers, curators, union leaders, journalists, writers and musicians from all over the country will take part in several round-table discussions, talk-marathons, poetry readings and concerts. In the recent years, most of the participants have been part of important artistic and research initiatives that address the social and economic situation of creative professionals in contemporary Russian society. As neo-liberalism continues to establish its hold, its ugly manifestations are becoming a daily reality for all of us. Not only are exploitation and lack of freedom taking on increasingly elaborate forms, but also the very resourcefulness and the creative potential of an artist or researcher are appropriated and capitalized on by employers. It is against this backdrop that the issues raised by the phenomenon of precarious labor are becoming ever more pressing. It is our conviction that the reassessment of precarious workers’ position in today’s economic structure calls for a joint action in search of a new cultural space and an alternative educational platform outside of and beyond the fraudulent logic of the neo-liberal market economy. Alongside the struggle against the injustice at a work-place, collective advocacy of civil rights within professional unions, and the street-politics of manifestations and protests we are now making another crucial step towards the re-examination of our position and therefore, towards change. The May Congress builds on and develops the experience of several earlier projects, such as “Drift. Narvskaya Zastava” (St. Petersburg – Moscow, 2004-2005), “Self-Education(s)” (exhibition, Moscow, 2006), “68.08. Street Politics” (exhibition, Moscow, 2008) and “Leftist art. Leftist history. Leftist philosophy. Leftist poetry.” (seminar, Nizhny Novgorod, 2009) among others. The Congress proceedings will be organized around two main thematic clusters: LABOR and SELF-ORGANIZATION. The third, practice-oriented, part will take place in the morning, on May 1, the International Workers’ Day that celebrates unity and solidarity, when the Congress participants will walk out into the streets of Moscow to form their own joyful and creative column.
The Congress will provide modest dorm-like accommodations for its participants on the premises of Proekt-Fabrika.
Проведенные в рамках выставки мероприятия: 29 мая в помещении выставки “Искусство как практики солидарности” в Европейском Университете состоялось обнародование крафт-книги Романа Осминкина “Товарищ-вещь“, а также выступила активистская группа “Аркадий Коц”
Борьба на два фронта
Жан-Люк Годар и группа Дзига Вертов. 1968 — 1972
Москва, 2010, 111 стр.
Составление : Кирилл Медведев, Кирилл Адибеков.
Перевод: Кирилл Адибеков, Борис Нелепо, Станислав Дорошенко, Кирилл Медведев, kinote.ru.
Марксистский период в творчестве Годара некоторыми воспринимается как одна из причуд его эксцентричного гения, другими — как лишнее доказательство того, что подлинное новаторство в искусстве невозможно вне связи с освободительной политикой и левой мыслью. Точно можно сказать одно: интуиция Годара привела художника в нужное время в нужные обстоятельства, и за несколько лет, прежде чем заодно с большинством интеллектуалов разочароваться в прямом политическом действии он сумел не только кардинально обновить собственное искусство, но, что важнее, существенно и глубоко, а вовсе не на уровне поверхностных веяний и конъюнктуры, развить критическую, брехтианскую линию в левом искусстве и арт-теории. В книге собраны материалы, связанные с этим периодом.
Русский Лес /// The Russian woods from chto delat on Vimeo.
Duration 42 min
Script & Idea: Tsaplya and Dmitry Vilensky
Music: Mikhail Krutik
Choreography: Nina Gasteva
Set & graphics: Nikolay Oleynikov
The participants in performance: Irina Pavlovskaya; Polina Popova; Elena Pasynkova; Sergey Krylov; Petr Pavlensky; Svetlana Erpyleva; Maxim Kulaev
Our work on the musical performance “Russian Woods” was largely provoked by political developments in Russia last winter. By participating in these important events that all of sudden have emerged inside Russian civil society, we were intrigued by the huge amount of use of mythic images and rhetoric, both from the government and from the protesters. We found that this phenomenon is not by chance and really reflects the level of a political culture in the country. And we wanted to try to analyze it in the form of a fairy tail story that would be able to not only reflect the totality of socio-political structure of our society, but also think about the possibilities of its transformation.
The film is based on the documentation of the theatrical performance which happened in St. Petersburg on 2nd of May 2012
Film Concept and script: Vilensky Dmitry & Tsaplya (Olga Egorova); Director: Tsaplya (Olga Egorova); Composer: Mikhail Krutik; Choreography: Nina Gasteva; Graphics and Set: Nikolay Oleynikov and Dmitry Vilensky; Director of Photography: Artyom Ignatov
This film is a production of the Chto Delat collective
The First Kyiv International Biennial of Contemporary Art
This film was produced with support from the Chto Delat Mutual Aid Fund.
The English version of this play was staged on 25th of March in a framework of the festival “Speaking and understanding” // Episode 3 Copying without copying, concept and production by Arika (arika.org.uk)
Director: Olga Egorova (Tsaplya) Music: Mikhail Krutik Set: Dmitry Vilensky and Natalya Pershina (Gluklya) Costumes: Natalya Pershina (Gluklya) Choreography: Nina Gasteva Script: Olga Egorova (Tsaplya) and Dmitry Vilensky
The fourth songspiel by Chto Delat? represents a similar new form of contemporary tragedy as the first three musicals of the “Songspiel-triptych”. But whereas the first three productions were based on accounts of historical events the “Museum-Songspiel” realized in a tradition of dystopia film. The script takes place against the backdrop of an imaginary scenario of Dutch politics in the year 20XX, where all immigrants have been banned from the country.
The first scene – which in contrast to all most other scenes of the film was shot on location at the Van Abbemuseum – shows a Museum’s guard who is controlling the galleries. The dramatic soundtrack accompanying the scene seems to anticipate his confusion, when stumbling upon a group of illegal immigrants, who have sought refuge in a large display case designed for street art incorporated into the museum. The museum seems to be the only institution in which they hope to be able to evade their deportation. The situation reminiscent of a (human) zoo, where one group is separated from another through a large glass wall, is finally resolved when the museum director tells the outraged journalist, that the museum never intended to hide the immigrants from the authorities in the first place, rather they were merely hired as actors for a performance.
The film raises the frightening question of which particular role the museum and therefore also art might be forced to play under political circumstances borrowed from the realities of Russian current political situation. The film is a kind of acid test on how socially concerned art might operate under severe pressure of control by nationalistic populist governments.
The work is a co-production of the Van Abbemuseum, SMART Project Space and Chto Delat?
Distribution and inquiries: SMART Project Space, Amsterdam
Museum director William Sutton
Curator Willemijn van der Ree
Artist Lesley Korpos
Journalist Igmar de Haan
Security guard Huip van Dijk
First visitor Claartje van Swaaij
Second visitor Ruud Drupsteen
Camera man Wouter van der Wiele
Immigrants: Derkan Atakan Dorgija Durasovic Aurel Peleq Salomee Rodenburg Daniel Romali Asya Vilensky
Museum attendants [choir]: Lotte Bovi (mezzo-soprano) Tim Maas (bass) Frederique Klooster (soprano) Anette Stallinga (alt) Joost van Velzen (tenor)
Musicians: Evgeny Shrednik (oboe), Mikhail Krutik (violin), Alexandra Zubova (violin), Alexey Bogorad (viola), Elena Grigoryeva (cello), Marina Krutik (piano)
Conductor for Choir recordings: Anton Pauw
Translations: Peter Wezel and Thomas Campbell
Camera: Artyom Ignatov and Tom Bierenbroodspot
Make up artist and hair: Loredana Secci
Stage production: Alex Lebbink and Jimini Hignett
Stage building and props: Jimini Hignett, Benjamin Roth, Avi Krispin, Pieter Paul Pothoven, Niels Vis
at Seccesion, Vienna
Posters Time line and Lexicon
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 a self-organized platform for a variety of cultural activities intent on politicizing “knowledge production” through redefinitions of an engaged autonomy for cultural practice today.
The array of activities is coordinated by a core group including following members:
Tsaplya Olga Egorova (artist, Petersburg), Artiom Magun (philosopher, Petersburg), Nikolay Oleynikov (artist, Moscow), Natalia Pershina/Glucklya (artist, Petersburg), Alexey Penzin (philosopher, Moscow), David Riff (art critic, Moscow) – active till 2011, 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 2012). Since then many Russian and international artist and researchers has participated in different projects realized under the collective name Chto Delat? (see descriptions of each projects on this web site)
Thomas Campbell // A Senseless Fax from Halifax: Nina Gasteva’s “Silent Dance”
During the only extended conversation I have had with Nina Gasteva, she told me how – during perestroika, I think, or perhaps earlier – she and her husband had lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her husband represented the Soviet merchant (or fishing?) fleet in Halifax, and Nina took up dancing there as a way to stave off boredom and otherwise survive in an alien environment. When I first saw this video of a performance in December 2009 by Nina and her friends outside the entrance to the Petersburg Sea Port, I recalled this conversation. It occurred to me that “Silent Dance” was a kind of a message from Halifax to the regime that got Nina’s husband fired from his job, the event that was the immediate occasion of Nina’s initial solo protest performance outside the sea port in October 2009. I don’t mean the real Halifax: I’ve never been there, and God only knows what really goes on in that fabled land. What I mean is the near-absolute incommunicability between “the current regime” in all its manifestations and ad-hoc attempts at grassroots solidarity on the part of union activists, antifascists, environmentalists, lovers of threatened old buildings, and ordinary citizens outraged at everything from police abuse to the dismantling of the last vestiges of the (post-)Soviet welfare state. Such protests are both more frequent than you would imagine if you’re transfixed by the overdetermined, nonstop performance known as “sovereign democracy” (the latest chapter in Russia’s centuries-long elaboration of the police state) and as likely to make an impression on the body politic and its media gatekeepers as a petition written in invisible ink and faxed in from Halifax. And by “regime” I mean more than this Putinocracy. In the first instance, the regime is the place where Nina and her friends perform their dance: as a guard heard off-camera at the beginning of the video points out, the port is a rezhimnaya territoriya – literally, a “regime territory,” that is, a restricted zone, where the general public, much less a group of contemporary dancers in hats, scarves, and coats, is not expected to show its face. This regime of “regime territories” is also a regime established and reinforced by “violent entrepreneurs” (to borrow sociologist Vadim Volkov’s coinage), figured here both by the armored car (complete with a Kalashnikov-toting passenger) seen pulling up to the gates as the dancers sway imperceptibly as trees in the icy breeze, and Nina’s reference to corporate raiders, whose dirty work is often finished in Russia by armed, masked men, sometimes in state uniforms. The effect of this top-to-bottom, violent securitization and overmapping of physical and virtual public space is, of course, stifling. It will sound like a cliché to say that the only way we can oppose this regime is to organize fragile, “senseless” gestures of solidarity within that space. When, however, this video was shown during the exhibition When One Has to Say “We”: Art as the Practice of Solidarity, at Petersburg’s European University this past spring, it elicited a spontaneous outpouring of unfeigned joy and astonishment among audience members, which is not an easy feat in a city whose cynical inhabitants have seemingly seen too much of everything. Since I was one of that tiny, joyful crowd I can explain why we were able to instantly read Nina’s senseless fax from Halifax and why it felt to us like a minor breakthrough. Like the “friendship” that, before this performance, Nina had suspected didn’t exist, true solidarity is the self-organization of bodies (and hence of spirits) who feared they had nothing in common right in the midst of those territories where the regime wants to have nothing in common with them and for them to have nothing in common with each other.
Capitalism makes us so stupid that we associate being with having.
The most powerful institution of contemporary capitalism is neither the state nor the different coercive machines of labor but consumerism. It could even be argued that communism was ultimately subsumed by our desires to own and consume. When any of us goes to the supermarket we find ourselves in a utopian space: magical things constantly present themselves to our gaze. We can return to an old critique and argue that it is just commodity fetishism and we’re justified in criticizing people for being satisfied with so little. People settled for the lesser, however, because the lesser also contained the greater. Consumerist and technological utopias are being realized in a way that’s the direct opposite, as it were, of actual utopia. It’s like a caricature of any authentic utopian desires.
How are we able to attack this most attractive utopia of the capital? We return to Guy Debord’s critique of commodity fetishism in Society of Spectacle as it was developed on the cusp of the transition to post-Fordist production – a time when production was transformed from the production and circulation of things, to the production and circulation of ideas. Consumerism within this context became less about the purchase of goods then the purchase of lifestyles, dreams, personalities, and hopes.
Today the text of Debord appears like ciphered, forgotten knowledge whose language is understandable just for a few people – tragically it reminds us of the language of the Russian avant-garde that was supposed to be open to everyone and finally after the Russian revolution was perceived by masses as something alienated from any everyday meaning.
In our performance we wanted to create a situation when normal reality of everyday shopping would be interrupted by strange interventions of a group of sandwich people carrying placards with sentences from Guy Debord. Of course we did not think that this intervention would be able to raise the consciousness of everyday East-German people shopping on Saturday.
But we hoped that this work would explore some of the latent possibilities still contained within the critique of consumerism. Our performance operates as a counter spectacle, momentarily creating a break within the cycle of consumption – symbolic blockade of the entrance to the shopping mall. Through this we hoped to raise the still urgent need for a deeper break with the counter utopia of consumption.
This film is based on an action in public space by Chto Delat? realized in the frame work of the Project “Die Elektrifizierung der Gehirne” at Motorenhalle, Dresden in September 2007.
Choreographers and dancers: Mikhail Ivanov, Gasteva Nina Playwright: Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya Researchers: Factory of Found Clotes Dance theatre: Dina Husein Sociologists: Svetlana Yaroshenko, Olga Chepurnaya
Displaced Persons, 2007
Idea: Mikhail Ivanov, Gasteva Nina, Ammola Juli Dancers: A. Kadruleva, M. Ivanov, N. Gasteva Music: Mikhail Ivanov
Noise and Silence, 2005
Choreographers: Mikhail Ivanov, Gasteva Nina Music: Richard Doiche Dancers: A. Ignatyev, A. Panchenko, A. Kadruleva
Idea and performance: Nina Gasteva Music: Peter Chaikovsky