Kölnischer Kunstverein

Chto delat?


27 Aug - 18 Sep 2011

Chto Delat? Poster: Perestroika. Twenty Years After: 2011-1991, Kölnischer Kunstverein, 2011
The Russian collective Chto Delat? was formed in 2003 by artists, critics, philosophers and writers from Saint Petersburg and Moscow. They combine political theory, art and activism in their manifold activities. The group’s projects are based on and build around its members' active participation in and research of the emancipatory potential of individuals and society at large as well as the role of culture in these processes. The name Chto Delat? translates to ‘What is to be done?’ and is based on the title of a novel by Nikolay Chernyshevsky from the 1860s in which the author drew up a minutely detailed plan for the setup of a socialist workers organisation. Vladimir Lenin later borrowed the name for his political concept. Collectivity is an essential element in the work of the group. They rethink the past as well as the present status of the collective as a means for transforming both the production of an artwork as well as its reception.

The exhibition Perestroika. Twenty years after: 2011-1991 is the first solo show of the internationally renowned artist collective in Germany. Chto Delat?'s works of art are profoundly political in their way of looking at current events and at history from a present perspective. The exhibition reflects the development of Russian society and economy after Perestroika, during which the Russian Federation was founded and the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. Drawn up as a reverse historical countdown the exhibition starts with a projection in the cinema of Tower: A Songspiel, produced in 2010. The audience is given an insight into a prominent public discussion in Saint Petersburg around the recent plans of Gazprom, the state-controlled energy company, to build the Okhta Center. The skyscraper would have marred the famous architectural skyline of the historical city of Saint Petersburg which also is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

An installation in the exhibition hall brings together text- and drawing billboards as well as video works from different work periods of Chto Delat? and shaped wooden sculptures. The shaped forms seem at first to represent some characters from Russian fairy tales and historical national symbols, but they actually are transformed into their grotesque opposite and become sarcastic allegories of Russian social and political phenomena. Finally the video film Perestroika-Songspiel. The Victory over the Coup (2008) looks back at the moment of the popular uprising and the triumphant victory of the democratic movement over the restorationist coup in August 1991. Although the time was filled with dreams and actions towards building the new society, the experiences of that time are reflected upon from a present perspective.

The project is realised by Nikolay Oleinikov, Tsaplya (Olga Egorova), Glucklya (Natalia Pershina) and Dmitry Vilensky. Chto Delat? are: Olga Egorova/Tsaplya (artist, Saint Petersburg), Artiom Magun (philosopher, Saint Petersburg), Nikolai Oleinikov (artist, Moscow), Natalia Pershina/Glucklya (artist, Saint Petersburg), Alexei Penzin (philosopher, Moscow), David Riff (art critic, Moscow), Alexander Skidan (poet, critic, Saint Petersburg), Kirill Shuvalov (artist, Saint Petersburg), Oxana Timofeeva (philosopher, Moscow) and Dmitry Vilensky (artist, Saint Petersburg).

The collective has taken part in exhibitions in renowned institutions such as the New Museum, New York (2011), the 17th Biennial of Sydney (2010), Principio Potosí, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2010), the Istanbul Biennial (2009) and NBK - Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (2009). The recent solo shows of the collective were Study, Study and Act again, Moderna galerija, Ljubjana (2011), Between Tragedy and Farce, SMART project space, Amsterdam (2011), The Urgent Need to Struggle, ICA, London (2010) and Chto Delat?. ar/ge kunst, Bolzano (2010). In October 2011 Chto Delat? will show in the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.

Tags: Chto Delat