Smart Project Space

Chto Delat? What is to be done between tragedy and farce?

22 Jan - 13 Mar 2011

Exhibition view
22 January - 13 March, 2011

“When building a presence abroad we often ask ourselves what do we represent in this context and why have we been invited? There is a subversive pressure to speak of some exotic, activist experience drawn from our local situation, where politics somehow survives under a pressure more colossal than that in the imagination of the West. As we have often written, there is a dialectical problem with this outsourcing of politics. So we always have to act - as correctly noted by Elena Filipovic in her article “the double role (of Chto Delat?): representing a certain history while overcoming common preconceptions in order to act as international translators.” But what are we actually translating/representing? Or as we have reformulated the question in the title of our show – What is to be done between tragedy and farce? What can we do with a mass of questionably unreliable data – such as oil production figures, records of the homeless, tax revenues and levels of wages, numbers of murders and birth rate; the growth of inequality and the parallel augmentation of the military-industrial complex; the index of xenophobia and depopulation? How does one connect all this data and construct a picture for a viewer who has no idea what it means to be there?

We need to build this picture, but not for some academic reason; serious scholarship is necessary, however in itself this isn’t enough. Nor is it our intention to distress a Western audience; the media do that enough already. Instead, we need this picture of Russian reality to define a context for our work and examine how far the language of art is able to carry forward a representation of reality rooted in its historical dynamism, brutality and lack of transparency. What can we do with this reality’s horrible and largely indescribable violence in the face of which any kind of artistic virtuosity remains powerless? It is not our intention to sensationalize or demonize Russia – we are sure that the Russian situation is very much the result of global division of labour and geopolitical confrontations triggered by capitalism and its political system of power. So we need to speak about Russia in the context of a new global order where sheer exploitation of the periphery goes hand in hand with accumulation of enormous wealth for the few who control the redistribution of raw resources internationally. It is important not just to demonstrate our negative relations to Russia’s current regime but to offer a visual explanation for why we continue to oppose the current development of the country and the mode of governance that has run it into a dead end”. Dmitry Vilensky, January 2011

Chto Delat? is one of the most significant contemporary collectives of their generation who use the framework of art production to explore themes of political theory and activism set within the context of the history of their native Russia. The group is composed of artists, philosophers and writers who have been active since 2003. Between Tragedy and Farce is realised by Tsaplya (Olga Egorova), Nikolay Oleynikov, Gluklya (Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya) and Dmitry Vilensky.

Tags: Chto Delat, Gluklya, Nikolay Oleynikov