Chto Delat

21 Nov 2014 - 25 Jan 2015

© Chto Delat
Time Capsule. Artistic Report on Catastrophes and Utopia
installation view, Secession 2014
Photo: Oliver Ottenschläger
21 November 2014 – 25 January 2015

Invited by the board of the Secession
Curator: Bettina Spörr

Chto Delat's exhibition Time Capsule. Artistic Report on Catastrophes and Utopia combines a complex environment centered around the sculpture A Resurrected Soldier and the film The Excluded. In a Moment of Danger (both 2014) with an archive comprising posters, ephemera, fragmentary footage, and documents that illustrate the oeuvre of the Russian collective in the more than ten years of its existence.

Chto Delat's work on the exhibition—conceived, in keeping with their theatrical-dramatic praxis, as a "tragic" show—was overtaken by the most recent political events in Russia and Ukraine, which are symptomatic of an ongoing dramatic transformation that changes the face of the world. For Chto Delat, these developments pose an almost existential challenge to the possibilities of artistic action. As they write, their work

"[...] reflects what art could be at a moment when familiar politics and everyday life start falling apart. The events of recent months have thrown Russian artists and creative workers into a completely new reality: a new Cold War atmosphere, an escalating search for enemies, ever-tighter repression of all dissent, and an open military confrontation with Ukraine leaving thousands of dead on both sides."

The picture of the present situation they paint in the exhibition is dismal: a scenery composed of media images from disaster scenes and war zones. Cutouts confront the visitors with events in Russia, Ukraine, and Palestine as well as images of Ebola victims and IS fighters. At the heart of this dystopian arrange-ment stand a fragmentary monumental wood-and-papier-mâché sculpture of a soldier and a small sculpture depicting a dysplastic organ: half heart and half ear, it contains the time capsule announced in the show's title and its utopian impulse. As Chto Delat explain, the time capsule, for which each member contributed a significant object, links the show to what may yet be: "Because we believe the future is there to be made."

The film performance The Excluded. In a Moment of Danger was created with participation of the graduates of the "School of Engaged Art" the collective established in Saint Petersburg in 2013. In the four-channel video installation, which runs for just under an hour, they reflect on their own sense of "exposure" and perplexity. The dialectical form that was characteristic of Chto Delat's earlier films has given way to open narrative structures and the search for a new language adequate to the task of portraying the escalating political situation in Russia.

The film is divided into twelve chapters and opens with an attempt to define the performers' temporal and spatial coordinates. Recent incidents as well as major historic episodes serve as points of reference for a subjective description of the current status quo. Chto Delat also address the role social media play in contemporary society and especially in the development of political actions and protest movements, as well as the question of how young people evolve into political subjects and learn to take responsibility for their lives. The formal decision to produce a four-channel video installation, a new format for the group, suggests the heterogeneity of voices and serves as a visual equivalent of the artists' sense that a catastrophe is unfolding before their eyes.

Chto Delat (What is to be done?) is a collective that was founded in St. Petersburg in 2003 and counts artists, critics, philosophers, and writers from St. Petersburg and Moscow among its members. The collective responded to the urgent need to merge political theory, art, and activism. Its activities include art projects, educational seminars, and public campaigns; its productions range from video and theater plays to radio programs and murals. The collective also publishes the Russian-English newspaper Chto delat?, which covers questions of culture and politics in an international context.

Selected solo exhibitions:
2011 Chto Delat? in Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden; Chto Delat? Perestroika: Twenty Years After: 2011–1991, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; study, study and act again, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana; 2010 The Urgent Need to Struggle, Institute of Contemporary Art, London

Selected group exhibitions:
2014 The Excluded. In a Moment of Danger, São Paulo Biennial; Really Useful Knowledge, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; 2013 Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789–2013, Tate Liverpool; FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; 2012 ROUNDTABLE, Gwangju Biennial (South Korea); 2011 Ostalgia, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.

Tags: Chto Delat